Thursday, January 26, 2017

Taking Things Too Seriously?

Crossing a pond in New York City's Central Park in a rowboat may be
relaxing, but if riders wish to stay dry, they take their boats seriously.
Life has a way of returning things to the right perspective. Our team loses in the championship, souring our mood for days. An appliance breaks down, or a stopped-up drain refuses to get unclogged, and we feel like our world is turned upside-down until it’s fixed. Then we hear about a much-loved family whose little boy’s severe health issues leave the medical experts scratching their heads. Or a young mother who’s been diagnosed with Stage IV cancer.

Suddenly our “pressing” problems don’t seem so overwhelming. Amazing what a little dose of everyday life can do to remind us about what’s really important – and what’s not. Maybe we were taking a ball game’s outcome, or a balky sink drain, too seriously.

I was reminded of this recently when a friend was told, “You take this Jesus stuff too seriously.” For many people, that’s their view. And they’re entitled to it. For those who follow Christ, who understand who He truly is, what He did, and what He offers, I don’t think we can ever take Him “too seriously.” On a list of what’s most important in life, He’s at the top.

Let’s try an analogy: Consider the family and the little boy with the rare disease having no remedy, at least for now. What if, somehow, you stumbled across a cure for the malady. (Suspend your disbelief for a moment, okay?) Would it be right to simply let the family continue to follow their prescribed course of treatment, which is having no positive effect, when you know what could cure the child? The same goes for the mom pondering who will care for her children after she’s gone.

We’d be regarded as cruel, inhumane, or even worse to not tell victims of devastating physical ailments if proven treatment could be provided. We can’t force people to take advantage of the cure, just as a doctor advising a patient to lose weight, stop smoking, drink less, or start exercising can require the patient to do as she advises. But if we knew there was a surefire answer, a solution to what ails someone, then who in their right mind would say, “Oh, I wouldn’t want to impose on them the remedy I’ve found”?

The reason followers of Jesus can’t – and shouldn’t – take Jesus “too seriously” is because of a dreaded, 100% lethal disease that afflicts all of humankind. The Bible calls it “sin.” A spiritual disease, its symptoms are seen throughout society and around the world in so many ways. Terrorism, murder, corruption, greed, hatred, prejudice, jealousy, malice, and various forms of violence and abuse are some examples. Individually we might not have committed all of these wrongs, but sin is universal: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

To make matters even worse, there’s a consequence for sin that each of us face: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). No exceptions or exclusions, according to the Scriptures.

However, the Bible also teaches there is a cure for this all-inclusive spiritual malady, but only one. It’s Jesus Christ, who declared, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). He said He was THE way, not one among a plethora of possibilities.

Until the 1950s, polio was a devastating, crippling disease. Then Dr. Jonas Salk developed a vaccine that saved countless millions from contracting it. It became – and remains – the one way to avoid polio. Wise people didn’t argue, “Well, I don’t want that way. I’ll wait for another option.”

As with Salk’s vaccine, the Bible teaches that in matters of forgiveness of sins, the opportunity to become “born again” into a new life spiritually, and to be assured of life after death, there is but one way. “Just as man is appointed to die once, and after that to face judgment, so also Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await Him…” (Hebrews 9:27-28).

Much more could be said, but one other truth underscores why we shouldn’t worry about taking Jesus more seriously than warranted. The Bible states one day everyone will finally know for certain who He is when, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11). As I understand it, some with bow with overwhelming gratitude, adoration, awe and humility. Sadly, others will also bow – but in terror, suddenly realizing the dreadful, eternal consequences of having refused the only cure for their sins.

That’s why those of us who have found the cure, Jesus, have the responsibility and obligation to share it, letting others know it’s available. We can’t take disease, physical or spiritual, "too seriously."

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