It was a Catholic school and the children had confession every Friday. They had time each day to write down their sins and then at confession they would read their list. One little boy, running late, grabbed the paper and ran to confession. Halfway through he stopped and shouted, "This isn't my list!" Then he said, "It sure was fun confessing someone else's sins." We like to do that, too!
Have you ever listened to Christians talk? You might hear things like, "Real Christians don't wear make-up," usually said by those who need to wear it. "Real Christians wouldn't smoke a cigarette after dinner," usually said by someone who eats a half gallon of ice cream after dinner. "Real Christians don't dance," except maybe on roller skates. We all have a list, and the reason some of you are laughing is because I haven't gotten to your list yet.
If we're not careful, we get narrow and self-righteous and become Super Saints. We become more religious than God. Instead of four spiritual laws we have ten, or maybe twenty. We've even developed our own vocabulary. We ask people how they talk on the phone. "When you answer the phone do you say, 'Praise the Lord?' Do you say, 'Hallelujah?'" "No, I say, 'Same to ya.'" They look down at those who simply say, "Hello," and make them feel badly about it.
Someone bragged to me about getting rid of his TV. "Satan's idiot box," he called it. He asked me if I had one. I was intimidated and said, "No." And I don't have one — I have two, but I didn't tell him that because I don't want on his list.
A pastor friend of mine got on someone's list. He bought the wrong kind of car. The first year at his church an auto dealer offered him a really good deal on a used Lincoln. It was only a year old and it was a great deal so he bought the car. He got into real trouble with some of the church people because a pastor shouldn't drive a Lincoln. That was on their list. He ended up taking the car back and one of his leaders advised him to buy a new Buick. That was okay with the church people even though the new Buick cost more than the old Lincoln did, but the Buick wasn't on their list. There is something spiritual about a new Buick and something that isn't about an old Lincoln.
We sanitize and spiritualize our lists. People even use the Bible and tell me things like, "I have the gift of Prophecy. That means I point out everyone's mistakes and problems." I tell them, "You don't have the gift of Prophecy. You have the gift of being a pain in the neck. Prophecy means to speak forth the good news." I've also noticed about these people that down through the years their family relationships weren't very healthy. When Mr. Right's first name is Always, he'll be pretty hard to live with. Sometimes that is why they'll spend so much time at church doing a lot of prophesying and being religious.
These prophesying people have always been among us. Dr. Barnhouse, the theologian of yesteryear, was preaching a Bible conference. Two women cornered him and complained about some young girls who were at the conference apparently without stockings and this upset the ladies. They told Dr. Barnhouse that women at a church service should wear stockings and they wanted him to do something about it. When you're the pastor you deal with people who come to you and point out what others are doing because it doesn't accommodate their list, and they want you to do something about it. Keep in mind that this stocking incident happened in the 1920s. Barnhouse looked at them and said, "The Virgin Mary never wore stockings." They gasped and said, "She didn't?" He answered, "In Mary's time stockings were unknown. They were first worn by prostitutes in Italy." I love it when another pastor says stuff like that. I know he's in trouble instead of me.
So we have always had this issue and we will always have people with different lists. A woman confronted one pastor after a worship service because she had heard through the grapevine that he occasionally had a cigar. She said, "I'm praying for you pastor." He said, "Sister, I'm praying for you, too." She said, "You don't seem to understand. I'm praying that God will help you with that nasty habit you have. He said, "Well Sister, you don't seem to understand either. I'm praying God will help you keep your nose out of my business."
Do you have a list? Are you checking it twice? Are you trying to figure out who's naughty or nice? Forget it. You're not Santa Claus and you're definitely not God. At one time you were on God's list but He tore it up. Tear up your list instead of tearing up other people and keep your nose out of God's business.
Charles Lowery is founder and president of LIFE, Inc. and is in a full time speaking ministry. You may contact LIFE, Inc. at 505-798-0800 or www.charleslowery.com.