It's Sunday afternoon, and you have just delivered a powerful, life-changing message to your congregation. However, Sister Million Questions and Brother Doesn't Understand have cornered you again. They didn't understand your message even though they had shouted amen the loudest.
Sound familiar? This scenario takes place in more churches than we might realize or care to admit.
Here in America, we emphasize equal rights and fairness. Nobody gets special privileges because of where or to whom they were born. Nobody gets to cut to the front of the line.
If you get to pick first today, it’s only fair that I get to pick first tomorrow. It’s a level playing field for everybody because nobody is better or more privileged than anyone else. It’s a great system.
The problem comes when we transfer this way of seeing to the Creator of the universe. We sing, “Jesus is my friend.” And He is. We celebrate that “Jesus is the servant of all.” And He is.
“I know better.”
It’s a simple message backed up by simple behaviors and a better knowledge of life or pursuit. In many contexts, you wouldn’t think twice about it.
A mom says it to a naïve child mesmerized by red-hot fire. Tiger Woods addresses you on how to get lift from a golf ball in a sand trap. B.B. King shows you a trick to get the guitar sound you want. Bill Gates says, “I have a new technology idea.”
The normal response in the face of greater knowledge and insight is to listen, learn and apply. Their knowledge transcends your own, and only a fool would deign to say, “Thanks, but no thanks. I got this one.”
I am a proud grandfather of two rambunctious grandkids. Like many grandparents, my wife and I are often amused by their candid innocence.
At a young age, kids are so eager to please and to help out wherever possible. I can remember a time when my grandson decided to assist me with my laptop bag. Picture a 4-year-old attempting to lift a 40-pound bag.
Although I told him several times that it was too heavy, he insisted that he could carry it. Needless to say, although he tried with all of his might, the bag barely budged. So I walked over and grabbed the bag by the handle with my grandson yet holding on. When we reached our destination, he looked up at me and proudly said, “See, Pop-pop, I told you I could do it!”
As often as the word holy is used by Christians, you’d think that we could all agree on a uniform understanding of its meaning. We read our “Holy” Bibles. We receive “Holy” Communion. We sing the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” and acknowledge the “Holy” Spirit, the third person of the Godhead. We understand the word generally to mean “divine” or “of God.”
But when Christians start to discuss holiness, they discover that the implications of the word vary widely. It seems that holiness can mean anything from a name for the pope to teetotalism and not wearing makeup.
From Moses to Martin, preachers have parted political waters and led the oppressed to the Promised Land. Either by summons to a pharaoh to “Let my people go,” parting the Red Sea with an outstretched shepherd’s rod, or accompanied by a soulful protest ballad, “We Shall Overcome” and a federal court order granting rights to march over the Alabama River on the Edmund Pettus Bridge—throughout millennia, preachers have led the advance of liberty and religious freedom through troubled waters, on dry ground or over them on segregated asphalt.
The birth of America’s freedom came no differently, as our forefathers crossed the Atlantic to escape Europe’s political and religious oppression. Has the time come for another Reformation? I believe so—an American Reformation! Where are the American clergy who will stem the tide of religious oppressions rising in our land by taking action against the political forces responsible? Maybe it’s time for a new breed of American clergy or just a restoration of the American preacher.