ESPN Sports Network has a feature on their shows they call "C'Mon, Man!" They run clips of football players in the middle of games doing things that make absolutely no sense and are detrimental to their team. Sometimes it's the coach making the foolish decision--like facing fourth-down-and-four and "going for it" on their own 30 yard line when they are ahead in the score and the clock is winding down--and once in a while it's a fan pulling the bone-head play.
"C'mon, man" is something of a combination groan, "duh!" (remember those from 10 years ago?), and "are you kidding me?"
Tim Williams of Lacombe, Louisiana, did something truly foolish earlier this week and is paying for it dearly. (Note: I do not know the guy. This is all from the December 31, 2009, issue of the Times-Picayune.)
He had driven to the Texas line to pick up his 12-year-old daughter and bring her home. Along the way--they were on Interstate 12 just east of Baton Rouge, not more than 50 miles from home--dad and daughter decided they would play a trick on the other motorists.
What they did was to duct-tape the daughter's mouth and hands and make it look like Tim was kidnaping her.
Well, they succeeded. That's exactly what the other motorists thought when they called 911 to report them. Then, while waiting for the Louisiana Highway Patrol to arrive, other motorists boxed in the Williams' pickup truck so they could not get away.
"It's just a joke," Tim and his daughter protested.
The police did not laugh. And neither did the judge who set his bail at $3,000. The dad was charged with criminal mischief and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The daughter was charged too and released into the custody of an uncle.
Now you know why mothers don't want to let the kids go off with dad.
The rest of the world would like to shake this father and say, "C'mon, man! What were you thinking? Even if your daughter was bored--all 12-year-old girls are bored!--and even if she suggested doing this, you are supposed to be the adult in this relationship! You are the one who thinks about consequences. It's up to the adult to say, 'I don't think so, honey. Why, what if (such-and-such) happened?'"
Lately, I've been thinking about people in the Lord's work who provoke a "c'mon, man!" reaction from the rest of us.
If you are on Facebook, you know how you end up with "friends" you've never met and probably never will. At the moment, I have accummulated something like 1,500 friends. I must know a third of them. But that's fine.
The idea behind befriending people is that when you post something--usually a short paragraph of your own or a couple of lines of comments on what another person wrote--it gets read by all those people. You read theirs; they read yours.
Preachers often find that Facebook is a great way to connect with friends far and wide, to pick up great stories and quotes and sermon insights, and to hear opinions not normally expressed in their tight little worlds.
Among the preachers who are my "FB friends" (that's how they are referred to) are a few who are so right-wing and conservative as to make Newt Gingrich and Jerry Falwell grimace.
What gets my goat (aka, "irks me," "drives me up the wall") is the way one of these preachers will post a statement such as "You are either obeying the Lord in every area of your life or you are a child of Satan."
I read that and think, "C'mon man! Lighten up. Don't draw the lines so hard and fast."
Underneath that statement will come comments from people agreeing with him. "Amen, brother." "You are so right, Pastor." And the one that always does it for me, "I wish every pastor saw things so clearly."
Come on, man!
"Lord," one of the disciples said, "We saw a fellow preaching and working in your name. We told him to stop it because he's not part of our group."
Jesus said (in essence), "Well, don't do that again. If that fellow is not working against you, he's on your side." (Luke 9:49-50)
The disciples were bickering about who was greatest in the Kingdom.
The disciples warned the mothers back; Jesus did not have time to see them or their children.
The religious leaders cautioned Jesus not to exercise His healing powers on the Sabbath.
The scribes, accepted authorities on the Word of God, informed Jesus that God did not do things the way He was doing them.
The Sadducees asked Him how there could be a heaven since those women who had been widowed more than once would end up with multiple husbands in heaven.
Peter interrupted the Lord's words about His coming death in Jerusalem to tell Him to get such negative thoughts out of His mind, that "we're not going to let that happen to you."
And next Sunday, some of us will stand in the pulpit and tell people what God cannot do and will never, ever do as though He had to run everything by us before working outside the box.
This is a plea for sanity and humility, two of the greatest (and rarest?) assets in a preacher.
Pastor search committees should look for those two traits before any other. Before asking about their orthodox take on doctrines, before inquiring about their strengths and weaknesses (they ask us this as though preachers know what they are best and worst at; they never do!), and before checking to make sure the wives are supportive of their man's ministry, they ought to do a little legwork to find out if the candidates have good mental health and at least a little dose of humility.
"God will never love you if you...." Finish the sentence any way you please and you have overstepped the bounds. C'mon, man.
"You can't be saved if you...." Be careful here. God does not give you and me a voice in who enters the Kingdom. Granted, Jesus said a lot on this subject, but we must be careful not to go beyond what He said.
"You must be a member of our denomination to get to Heaven."
"If you die with one unconfessed sin, you will not get to Heaven."
"I can tell the level of your spirituality by hugging you. If you stiffen up and resist, you're not yielded to Christ." (Think I made that one up? C'mon, man!)
"All feminists are unsaved."
"All Masons are unsaved."
"All liberals are unsaved."
Come on, man. Cut this out. God has not made me the doorkeeper of the Kingdom and I'm fairly certain He hasn't assigned you to the job either.
What I hear coming through so many of these statements is a lack of love.
What I see is a failure to take the Bible's message of grace and love and forgiveness as a whole, but a tendency to choose one or two passages of judgment and go to seed on them.
What I feel from such preachers (and other self-appointed teachers) is bad mental health.
They're angry. Perhaps they've been hurt along the way by some group, some family member, some preacher in their past. As a result, a root of bitterness has been grafted into their spiritual life, which is now bearing its awful fruit in their ministries.
The pastor who preaches such a bitter gospel will always find people who agree with him and encourage him on.
There are churches which ought to name themselves "Church of the Bad Mental Health."
If the preacher will study closely such supporters, he will find they are an angry lot themselves.
He should watch his back when around them.
My observation is that such preachers and members are often sheltering some secret sins in their lives. Think of the harshest evangelists (is that an oxymoron or what?) you've ever known and think back to how many of them were found to be embezzling money, child molesters, or perverts of other assorted kinds.
I'm not speaking theoretically. Any preacher who has been in the ministry three decades or more has just about seen it all.
I want to run when I hear preachers, of all people--those charged with declaring the good news!--ladling out harsh pronouncements of judgements on this group and that. If asked to account for why they're not preaching the good news of Jesus, they will attack you as an unbeliever and then redefine the Gospel message in accordance with their Scrooge-ish views.
"See to it that no one misses the grace of God..."
Say what? C'mon man. Think of what that means! The lovely, wonderful, generous graciousness of our Heavenly Father! Don't miss that!
"...and that no root of bitterness grows up to cause trouble and defile many." (Hebrews 12:15)
Dr. Joe McKeever is a Preacher, Cartoonist, and the Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans. Visit him at joemckeever.com/mt.
Original publication date: January 4, 2010