I love to listen to Steve Brown and the Key Life radio broadcast. He
often pokes fun at religious pomposity in himself and in the church.
Yesterday he was giving anecdotes of new believers who were behaving
unreasonably in the eyes of their friends and neighbours. A new-found
faith had appeared to establish such certainty in the big issues of
life. The convert felt himself to be a valuable providence for others.
Such fanaticism. Such half-cooked reality! Such unapproachable
self-assurance. It deserved the world’s laughter.
He spoke of an old friend who with embarrassment told the following
story: She had just gotten saved. The Holy Spirit had turned on some
of the lights concerning Christ’s finished work of redemption. She
wanted to impact some of her neighbours. (She couldn’t bear to see
them go to Hell, or so she thought.) Written invitations were sent out
for a Bible study. She cleaned up the house. Scattered around open
Bibles. Put away all the secular magazines and novels. And baked
fish-shaped cookies! Fish-shaped, like the ancient secret symbol of
believers in the catacombs of Rome! Yeah team.
The scheduled evening came and not a single neighbour arrived. In the
silence of her “sanctified” living room she thought she could hear
laughter. The world’s laughter. Clearly this was not the way to get to
know strangers; to affirm them; to help them; to gain their trust; to
represent the riches of belief.
The remembered barb which came from that ill-conceived outreach stayed
with this woman throughout her Christian walk. In Brown’s words the
world’s laughter had been a “severe mercy”. It had been inevitable.
Steve Brown is often one to warn that the Christian does not have it
all together. The healthy church is honest about its short-comings.
The scriptures contain many mysteries and half-contradictions which
will only be half-understood this side of Glory. To represent a stiff
certainty and smugness in the face of all the world’s problems is to
render no service at all. Scripture delivered in such a spirit comes
across like snowballs packed with pebbles.