Bow down, or be shot down
It was such a warm and pleasant Sunday morning that he decided that I didn’t want to go to church. Instead, I chose to jog up a hill behind my house and enjoy the morning. I was lost in thought as I ran the winding road that was leading to the summit. When I look over the edge and saw three men sitting by the swimming pool sipping cocktails. As I looked down upon those men, I thought, “You guys ought to be in church giving thanks to God for the lovely home and comfortable lifestyle you’re enjoying.” Suddenly the reality of that thought hit me, and I asked myself, “Why aren’t I in church doing that very thing?” As I continued my jog, I began to examine my reasons for not being in church that morning.
As a young man, I had disliked church very much. My main complaint was that it was boring. That may be a legitimate excuse for an adolescent, but it was a pretty lame excuse for a man my age, especially one who was a clergyman. The problem with using boredom as an excuse, is that I disapprove of the alternative for boredom, which is usually entertainment. Church should be a place for worship rather than a format for entertainment. If you want to be entertained, there were lots of places to go in our society that have some very high quality entertainment.
My next excuse was I didn’t like the music. I grew up with rock and roll, and sometimes wish that I could have Christian music in the rock style that I’ve grown to love and appreciate. Church music, in the traditional sense, has endured the centuries. In a more modern sense, there’s a whole new style of contemporary Christian music out there to appeal to a younger generation. None of those have ever spoken to my heart. That said, I’ve yet to hear the Rolling Stones, or any other rock group, create anything as close to as beautiful as Handel’s Messiah. I realized then that my problems was less with musical style, than it was with my lack of musical appreciation. So much for using music as an excuse.
I then thought the problem must be with the sermons. This rationalization didn’t last long, because I’m a pastor, and I know how difficult it is to prepare 52 quality sermons over a year. There were many times when I have preached my heart out, only to have the congregation leave without saying a word of appreciation, thank you. It was like nobody ever heard a word. I said. The problem most of the time is not what the sermons, so much as it is with us listeners. It’s been said that the hardest person to reach is not the thief or the prostitute, but the self-righteous prig in the pew. I recognized that my problem had little to do with the sermons, and everything to do with me. I was a self-righteous prig in the pew. So much for using sermons as an excuse.
As I continued my jog, I took a hard look at myself, and realized that the reason I do not like to go to church is because a worship service requires that I bow my head and subjection to my heavenly father, and as a human being I don’t like to do that. I may be an ordained minister in full-time Christian service, but that does not shelter me from the ego problems that affect the human race in general. All week long I run my own life, but on Sunday mornings that nonsense is supposed to come to an end. And church, it’s my time to bow my head and answer for the arrogance, narcissism that I have displayed all week, and try, once again, to bring that massive ego of mine under control to God’s authority.
My ego hates Sunday mornings, and that’s why it’s far easier for me to run a number of miles over a local hill, than it is to attend church. All human being struggle with this problems. Christians struggle with this problem. But what happens to the person who refuses to allow their ego to be brought under control? Young people I work with in juvenile hall have a tendency to bow down to no one. They’re going to do what they want, when they want, to whomever they want, anytime they want, any way they want, with no expectation that they’ll ever be stopped. It is this rejection of authority and restraint that makes them so dangerous. Napoleon had an interesting perspective on this. “A man is not a man without God. I saw men without God in the reign of terror and 1793. one does not govern such men, he shoots them down.”
A young man whom I call Gino, was shot down. He was in the middle of an armed robbery when the police arrived and ordered him to drop his gun and surrender. Instead, he opened fire and ran. I was a pallbearer at his funeral. Another man I’ll call Dale, was shot down as well. He’d committed an armed robbery, and then tried to escape in a high speed chase which ended in a collision. He jumped out of the car, opened fire on the police, and he was shot down as well. He survived, and received a multi-year sentence in prison. Bow down, or be shot down, seems to be one of the few options available to young people with such a mentality. If I personally am not bowing down on a regular basis, what do I have to offer this group of young people who’ve grown up to be like Gino and Dale?
My attendance at church has increased significantly since that Sunday morning jog over the mountain.
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