“Jesus said ‘go into all the world and preach the Gospel,’ he didn’t say anything about coming back.” -my missionary friend before going to Sudan
A few months ago I took Samuel (our 2 year old) on our first trip together, we called it a man-cation, and it was a blast, which isn’t to say that it was easy. I told Leslie, I will never again complain about you being late anywhere.
We had total strangers helping us get around in the airport, they took pity on us when they saw the whining and melt downs and temper tantrums (Samuel was doing okay though). And this was before the plane had left Abilene. We were delayed for like 4 hours, and at one point, Samuel heard Leslie coming back to give us some snacks, and he runs right past the security rope at the airport…and they don’t like that
So the TSA agent pins Samuel against the wall like he’s Bin Laden. And Samuel is trying to figure out what the heck is going on.
Now the TSA lady is just trying to do her job, but one of the things that happened later, was that I was trying to explain what happened to Samuel and Eden.
Because kids have that annoying habit of asking Why.
So Eden, who saw this, happen, and Samuel were wondering why he got form tackled. And have you ever tried explaining the TSA to a kid?
And I told them that the TSA people help to keep us safe.
And they said why? I said, because we want to be safe.
And they said why? I said, because security is a really big deal, and they said why?
And I said, I guess because we are really afraid.
The Language of Fear
Last week I saw an article on NPR that talked about the way that our language has changed over the past several decades. It was a fascinating look at the way we’ve described our world. When the researches first started looking, they thought what they would find was that we would have constant emotions. But they found that each period had words that were much more emphasized. So in the 20’s we talked about joy and happiness. At the beginning of World War II, we were overwhelmed with language of sadness. And ever since the early 80’s we’ve been terrrified.
Think about the language we hear and use consistently. We are so very afraid about everything. Last month, the Teneesseean ran an article about how some Tennessee lawmakers had proposed a new bill because they had confused a mop-washing sink for a Muslim foot-washing sink.
Jonathan Edwards the famous preacher once preached on the book of Job. And he made the point that the story of Job is all of our story. Job lost everything in one day, his family, his wealth, his health, Most of us experience our losses more slowly, over the span of a lifetime, until we find ourselves on the door of death, leaving everything behind.
The question isn’t whether or not we will lose the things we love, but how we will do it.
The Idols We Riot For
In Acts 19, there is one of my favorite stories in the entire Bible. Paul has gone to Ephesus to tell people about Jesus, which seems innocent enough, but he actually winds up inciting a riot.
Actually the people who started a riot were the ones who had a vested interest in the dominant religion of the day. They were silversmiths and craftsmen who made shrines for Artemis. They worked for the system and the system worked for them. And they certainly didn’t need some punk Christian coming in and saying that those idols were just decorative, powerless trinkets.
So they gathered a group of people, got ‘em all riled up and for two hours these people shouted, “Great is Artemis, God of the Ephesians.”
Now before you write this story off as some weird, ancient religion you need to know something else.
The name for Artemis is based on the root Greek word for Safety or health.
Artemis sounds like some ancient religion, but the truth is she is worshipped by millions everyday.
And standing juxtaposed against this mob chanting for safety, but acting dangerously, is this guy named Paul, who wants to go into the assembly that has basically gathered just to kill him. Everyone else is out of their mind wanting security, but Paul is willing to risk everything.
Because Paul doesn’t worship Artemis.
A few years ago I had a college student sitting in my office with a problem. He had signed up on a mission trip to go to a country that was now experiencing some political unrest. What was once just a routine summer missions trip was now potentially dangerous.
And his parents were forbidding him to go.
But he’s reading his Bible, he’s drinking deeply from this Jesus story about men and women who are willing to risk their lives for the Gospel, and he’s reading all the stories about not letting fear have the last word. And he’s asking me what should he do?
What would you tell him?
What have you told him? Because this college student isn’t just sitting in my office. He’s in churches and living rooms all over the country, and he’s paying attention not just to the lip-service of what we say we believe, he’s paying attention to what we really worship.
Because the way of Jesus isn’t the way of Artemis.
Because the real risk of security is that you might be worshipping a god who is no god at all.