Friday, 18 May 2012
My secretary tapped on my office door inside the First Baptist Church of small town Oklahoma, peeked inside, and said “Mrs. Jones is here to see you.” Then, making sure only I could see her, she rolled her eyes and backed out of the doorway, leaving room for my visitor to slip past her. I invited Mrs. Jones to come into my study and set down while I tried unsuccessfully to suppress a guilty grin.
“God has been speaking to me” she began in an incredibly condescending tone, “and he wants me to tell you that he disapproves of the post-prom party you are planning for the youth group.”
“Really? and exactly what is it he disapproves of?” “Well” she replied, “by having the party start after the prom rather than having it during the prom you are implying that the church feels it is acceptable for young christian men and women to dance together in a lascivious manner.” I attempted to counter by saying that, at least in my own personal experience, it was what happened after the prom that usually got kids in trouble and that to the best of my knowledge no one had ever actually gotten pregnant while on the dance floor.
“I don’t appreciate your cavalier attitude young man. I intend to bring this up to the church board, have the party cancelled, and see that you are disciplined.” “In the future” she continued, “perhaps you should spend more time in prayer and personal Bible study so that you can more accurately discern the will of God.”
“Thank you for your concern, and for sharing your opinion, Mrs. Jones. However, if God wants to tell me something I imagine he would speak directly to me.”
I know this sounds like a scene from the movie “Footloose” but it’s actually a scene out of my life in the ministry, circa 1987.
The scene above has repeated itself in many, many different transmutations over the course of the 36 years I’ve been a minister. Which is why, even today, if I hear someone start a sentence by saying “God told me” I make sure I’m squarely facing that person because I figure I’m about to get stabbed in the back.
“Bitter much?” I hear you say. No, not so much bitter as I am incredibly world weary of the ways that people use their faith as an excuse to justify and promote their personal agendas.
I certainly feel that God has impressed many things on me over the years but never once have I felt he was telling me to go correct the behavior of another believer. I’ve had all I can handle dealing with my own shortcomings to feel the need to point them out in others.
I believe that God has “told” me to simply try and lead our little church to do the things I think the church is supposed to be doing. We try and feed a lot of people. We try and provide clothes to a lot of people. And we could care less what color you are, what language you speak, what your political affiliation is, or who you sleep with. We don’t proselytize, and we don’t point fingers. Most of all, we have lots of fun. The best part may be that my fellow staff members are my best friends and my best drinking buddies. As far as I’m concerned it doesn’t get any better than that.
That doesn’t make my church any better than anyone else's, but I can say that I never start a sentence with “God told me.”
I might start a sentence with “My bartender told me” but it won’t mean I’m about to stab you in the back.
(What can I say, Mrs. Jones could never get me to change my cavalier attitude.)In what ways have you seen people use their faith or "the God card" to justify personal agendas? Have you ever been guilty of this? Do you think it's appropriate in some situations -- can the reasoning really be that God said so -- or does there always have to be a logical reason attached?