"So," they say, "nobody's perfect!"
But the Vinedresser won't buy that.
Given the opportunity, He will trim the unproductive suckers and shape the branches so each one will bask in Sonlight.

Monday, July 17, 2006


      The Bill Gaither song goes ...
Shackled by a heavy burden
Neath a load of guilt and shame,
... and when we hear that, most of us think of the unchurched.
      I was raised in a Catholic family where guilt and shame were a regular part of our religious ritual. But not only the unchurched and Catholics are neath a load of guilt and shame.
      Would I be presumptuous to say some of us who sit in evangelical Protestant churches every week are also loaded down with guilt and shame? Some of us come to church burdened with such a load, hoping for absolution from sitting in the worship service. And maybe we go away uplifted ... for a while.
      The preacher talks about sin and salvation, and we get lost in our own thoughts. Maybe we agree with him. Maybe we know we're not perfect, and need to be better. But we look around the church, and in our minds, look around the workplace or the world in general, and we see many who really need the Lord. We're not bad at all, compared with them.
      The preacher talks about everyone sinning and falling short of God's glory, and we agree. Certainly, no one is as good as God. But that's why He sent Jesus to love the world to Him.
      The preacher talks about the wages of sin being death, and we agree. Certainly, all the bad sinners will go to hell when they die, but we're not half bad compared to them.
      The preacher talks about the gift of God being eternal life, through Jesus, and we agree. For Jesus so loves the world that everyone who believes in Him should have everlasting life ... or something like that. And we believe in Jesus; He was a great guy who lived a long time ago. Yeah, we believe in him.
      The preacher talks about inviting Jesus into our hearts and turning our lives over to him, and we agree. If we were going to be ministers or missionaries, or lay fanatics, we'd need to be all his. But it's just not practical for us. We live in the real world, where people have jobs and stresses in our everyday lives. We have to have releases, R&R, recreations. We may have some fun, but we don't hurt anybody. And we can still go to church on Sunday and hold our heads high as they're singing the hymns. And we definitely feel better when we leave for the real world.
      After all, next Sunday's right around the corner, and if it's convenient or if we feel the need, we can do it all over again.
      If I really believed all that, I would resent any Bible thumper who told me I was wrong ... dreadfully wrong, and destined to burn in hell. I would likely tell them to, "Judge not, lest ye be judged!" I might even ask, "What makes you think you own the truth, and nobody else's beliefs are right?"
      If I copped that attitude, I--the I writing this, not the theoretical, ignorant I--would hope to God that the "Bible Thumper" would love me enough to convince me that my prideful complacency was leading me away from God, and to the place reserved for Satan and his minions.
      I would hate to discover how wrong I was after I'd blown my last opportunity to change my mind. Trouble is, none of us knows exactly when that last opportunity will pass us silently by.

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