“Now, everyone get up and shake hands with those around you and tell them Jesus loves you,” commanded the Preacher. And all the so, so nice people dutifully arose in unison, stretched forth the right hand of friendship and, with a plastic smile, intoned the words, “Jesus loves you!”
The church masks were all in place. But why is it so important to reinforce the idea that Jesus loves you? And what’s really behind that mask?
“Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin to slit throats.” - H. L. Mencken
It’s not that hour or two spent in church that defines us. It’s the other 166 hours each week that should give us pause to not only ponder the importance of God’s love, but also wonder that He can love us at all. A fair number of those moments each week are spent harboring thoughts of revenge. (That’s such a nasty word - Substitute "retribution"! That sounds more like it’s justified.) After all, each of us has suffered a slight or maltreatment at the hands of somebody else. It is natural to rail at injustice.
Of course, Jesus took a much different approach:
“Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) This while he was being murdered by those he came to save.
We want things, lots of things! There is never quite enough to satisfy our insatiable appetite for “stuff”. That is normal. It’s what we are willing to do to get those things that can be at odds with the Lord’s rather unconventional approach. Hardly anyone reading this today is likely (I hope) to leave church and pull a stickup. But what about that little white lie, the exaggeration or subtle suggestion that is clearly a fantasy to close that sale? What about the undisclosed defect that is conveniently forgotten during deal making negotiations? Sales puffery may be legal to some extent, but ………???
We are all programmed from birth to accept as our standard the devil’s perspective. It is his world and anything else is looked upon as abnormal. Robert Ringer devoted an entire book, a runaway bestseller by the way, to this mode of thinking. Its title, WINNING THROUGH INTIMIDATION. Dr. Lilly examined the same condition and offered this insightful comment,
“…but it has come to me that I really don't care that much about really knowing God, I just want the power so that I may be more successful.” - Larry Lilly
Once again, if we are honest, we find that our minds operate automatically in a manner diametrically opposed to the teachings we pretend to embrace while in church. In fact, the words of Jesus are so out of place in our society that to adhere to them would be a total aberration, if that were even possible with our hard-wired programming. That was just as true when Jesus walked this earth in sandals as it is two thousand years later. Read the comment of the public who heard him preach.
Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?” (John 10:20) Even his own earthly family recoiled at his strange outlook.
When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” (Mark 3:21)
Numerous preachers allude to the fact that we all commit crimes against God. We do it daily! We are taught that the blood of Adam flows freely though our veins and it is this bloodline that makes us sinners.
True as this may be, I contend that there is more to it. Many people have overcome a genetic deficiency, depending on the environment in which they are raised. But when you couple that poisoned bloodline with the programming we receive from birth, by our parents, our peers and the world around us, we have no chance. Even a nihilist philosopher recognized that.
“What was silent in the father speaks in the son and often I found in the son the unveiled secret of the father.” - (Friedrich Nietzsche)
Before you take that afternoon nap, see how these words stack up with those other 166 hours each week.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” No greed there.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Where is the intimidation? This guy must be a real loser.
And as for those who took advantage of their power to inflict humiliation or rob us of those things we rightfully earned:
“I know indeed what evil I intend to do. But stronger than all my afterthoughts is my fury, fury that brings upon mortals the greatest evils.” - Euripides (480-406 B.C.)
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespassed against us.”
You can take your pick.
Nothing like a nice, relaxing Sunday. A morning in church, a fine dinner with the family, some good football games on TV, and now, if you can just relegate those other 166 hours to the back of your mind, it’s almost time for the evening worship service. It’s time to put that church mask back on.
I’ll leave you with this thought. I hope it haunts those hours of the forthcoming week.
“We would do well not to trample the weak because they have no voice and tend to die quietly. All heaven is watching.” - Aline Edson
And yes, Jesus does love you. Please, LOVE HIM BACK!