Nov 30 2008
I help to teach 7th/8th grade Sunday school at my church. It’s always a super fun time. You’d think it would be full of unruly, sniveling little tweens. And you’d totally be right. And they’re HILARIOUS! Even though 7th/8th graders can’t think like older kids, they more than make up for it with personality. They haven’t reached the age yet where being sullen is cool. They’re full of energy and, for most, their personalities are on full display. Yes, it’s probably because of the awkwardness of the age, but I feel like the creepy old guy in the Geico commercials – I’m observing these kids in the wild – even if the wild happens to be a Sunday school class.
With all that said, every once in a while, one of the kids asks a question so penetrating that it cuts to the core of MY heart. Today it happened not once, but twice. I’ll share one of the innocent questions and why it’s not nearly as innocent as it seems.
“Hey, where does Jesus actually say He was dying for the sins of the world?”
Notice the question is where does JESUS actually say it. This seems totally innocent. And it kind of is. It’s not like the question is asked with malicious intent. But there’s a huge problem. If you’re a Christian and you try to answer that question yourself, you may not have an answer. And if you don’t have an answer, and you have a certain temperament that needs answers to questions like this, you’ll get a panicked feeling. It feels like a bucketful of extra blood gets thrown into your heart. You get a little sweaty. You hear this faint voice in your head that says, “Oh, man.” There are lots of questions that will cause you panic if you can’t answer them. His question made me reflect on an experience I had a while ago and, coupled with the sermon from church this morning, reminded me of something.
When I was a sophomore in college, this exact thing happened to me. I was a Freshman Orientation leader. I took the freshman all over campus and did activities with them for 4 days. On the last night, we had a motivational speaker talk with all the freshman about college life. During the course of the lecture, the speaker made some disparaging remarks about Christianity. So after his lecture was over, I went to talk with him about what he’d said. In the 5-minute span of our conversation, he did more to undermine my confidence in the bible than anything I’ve experienced. And it all started out with that simple question above. Unable to answer, he pressed the issue further and began throwing the hammer down on the entire bible, doing so with similar innocent questions – never getting angry, just asking questions. I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t answer him. Over time, I got some answers to my questions, but there are still periods of my life where I have problems with the book of John. In fact, I can probably just say, “I have problems with the book of John.” In my heart I believe all of God’s Word is right, but something in my head still has problems with the book of John.
What am I saying? Someone might reasonably think I’m going to say youth workers need to have answers to these questions. I think it’s good that they do, but that’s not the point I’m after here.
“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter.” (Exodus 13:17)
Our aim in having Garmins and TomToms is not to get lost. We want the most direct route. God often doesn’t work that way. He takes us the long way. Intuitively, something inside us understands this. Rascal Flatts scored a huge hit with “Bless The Broken Road.” The Israelites’ road to the Promised Land was more than 400 years long because getting the Israelites to the Promised Land wasn’t God’s only objective. He had tons of stuff He wanted to show them. He had lots He wanted them to experience and learn.
Maybe the kids in Sunday school panicked when they heard that question (we’re talking about it next week in class). Maybe they didn’t. Hopefully I won’t always have problems with John. Either way, we have to trust that God is taking us the way He wants. The direct route is an answer in 5 seconds. The indirect route is an answer in 5 years. Only He knows why one person gets the direct route while another doesn’t. But He’s not a robot. He’s not predictable. And I think that’s cool! Sometimes it doesn’t work out how I want it but God isn’t a Garmin.
“Jesus told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:26-27).