Most of us have heard the motivational quote “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” That looks really good on a poster underneath a cool picture. But there is always the cynical presence of Murphy’s Law and its many variations. For example, there is Lynch’s Law to counter that popular saying. Lynch must have had some friends like Job because he postulated the following.
Lynch’s law: When the going gets tough, everyone leaves.
There are many people who are reading this post and have read my books that can relate to Lynch’s Law. All too often that seems to happen in the body of Christ. We know that cannot be the heart of Jesus for His followers. We are to seek and restore, not leave and condemn. So what in the wide, wide, world of sports is a goin’ on? I still believe in the church despite my recognition of the inherent flaws of an organization that openly (for the most part) recruits sinners. I still believe that Christians make a difference all over the world through selfless and loving service to others. But the other hard truth is that the body of Christ (the church) needs to get healthy in this country to have real influence. And it needs to happen soon. I can’t seem to go too many posts without quoting lyrics from Casting Crowns. The message of this song summarizes my frustration as a Christian. If we are the body of Christ, how are so many people getting wounded and falling away?
But if we are the Body
Why aren’t His arms reaching
Why aren’t His hands healing
Why aren’t His words teaching
And if we are the Body
Why aren’t His feet going
Why is His love not showing them there is a way
Jesus paid much too high a price
For us to pick and choose who should come.
As we head into the Easter season we might find a clue in those final two lines. It is too often about us. It is too often about me. Jesus paid much too high a price for me (or you) to pick and choose who should come. That just doesn’t dominate our thinking enough, does it? If His arms aren’t reaching out to others the problem is me…and you. If the world hasn’t seen love that shows a way the problem is me…and you. In the words of the cartoon character Pogo, “We have met the enemy, and it is us.”
At this point I run the risk of having Green’s law of debate thrown at me: Anything is possible if you don’t know what you’re talking about.
I have seen all sides of this topic. We have been touched and humbled by the response of so many Christians to Joni’s cancer. But often the response of those in the church can be disappointing and even devastating. But the one thing I have learned is to hold fast to Jesus no matter what the response of other church goers might be. It is so easy to get self-absorbed and self-righteous when all is going well. When a crisis comes along you have to make a choice. And it is a choice. You can choose to run away. However, if you run away you will surely have to deal with Lovka’s Dilemma: You never get away, you only get someplace else.
Or you can decide to quit if you believe another one of Murphy’s Laws: If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Then quit. No use being a darn fool about it.
But when it comes to my walk with Jesus and my commitment to the body of Christ and the church, I am fine with being a darn fool about it. (Note to those bloggers who like to quote Christians out of context to make them look like idiots…that last one was a good one to lift). Paul wrote about how the church at Galatia had lost sight of the meaning of Christ’s death, the Good News, and the message. The Apostle didn’t mince words.
Oh, foolish Galatians! What magician has cast an evil spell on you? For you used to see the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death as clearly as though I had shown you a signboard with a picture of Christ dying on the cross. Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by keeping the law? Of course not, for the Holy Spirit came upon you only after you believed the message you heard about Christ. Have you lost your senses? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? You have suffered so much for the Good News. Surely it was not in vain, was it? Are you now going to just throw it all away? I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law of Moses? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ. Gal 3 NLT
I would guess a message like that proclaimed in most churches today would cause half of the congregation to stomp out. But maybe we need a little more hard truth and a little less coddling. It is easy to quit. It is such a temptation to quit at times. I happened to catch a very funny scene while traveling recently. It comes from the movie Dodgeball (that just improved my standing with the legalists). The character played by Vince Vaughn has led a improbable group of misfits to the championship game of the world dodgeball tournament but some setbacks had caused him to throw in the towel. Lance Armstrong appears as himself and offers this commentary.
Lance Armstrong: Hey, aren’t you Peter La Fleur?
Peter La Fleur: Lance Armstrong!
Lance Armstrong: Yeah, that’s me. But I’m a big fan of yours.
Peter La Fleur: Really?
Lance Armstrong: Yeah, I’ve been watching the dodgeball tournament on the Ocho. ESPN 8. I just can’t get enough of it. Good luck in the tournament. I’m really pulling for you against those jerks from Globo Gym. I think you better hurry up or you’re gonna be late.
Peter La Fleur: Uh, actually I decided to quit… Lance.
Lance Armstrong: Quit? You know, once I was thinking of quitting when I was diagnosed with brain, lung and testicular cancer all at the same time. But with the love and support of my friends and family, I got back on the bike and won the Tour de France five times in a row. But I’m sure you have a good reason to quit. So what are you dying of that’s keeping you from the finals?
Peter La Fleur: Right now it feels a little bit like… shame.
Lance Armstrong: Well, I guess if a person never quit when the going got tough, they wouldn’t have anything to regret for the rest of their life. Well good luck to you Peter. I’m sure this decision won’t haunt you forever.
As Easter approaches and I think about the price that Jesus paid my occasional thoughts of quitting should cause me to die of shame. So when the going gets tough I have no intention of quitting. Let’s go back to the church at Galatia as Paul writes…
Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you. I am emphatic about this. The moment any one of you submits to circumcision or any other rule-keeping system, at that same moment Christ’s hard-won gift of freedom is squandered. I repeat my warning: The person who accepts the ways of circumcision trades all the advantages of the free life in Christ for the obligations of the slave life of the law. I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.
You were running superbly! Who cut in on you, deflecting you from the true course of obedience?
‘Cause when the going gets tough, the tough keep believing. And maybe even start praying and loving.