The World's Laughter


I love to listen to Steve Brown and the Key Life radio broadcast. He often pokes fun at religious pomposity in himself and in the church.

Yesterday he was giving anecdotes of new believers who were behaving unreasonably in the eyes of their friends and neighbours. A new-found faith had appeared to establish such certainty in the big issues of life. The convert felt himself to be a valuable providence for others. Such fanaticism. Such half-cooked reality! Such unapproachable self-assurance. It deserved the world's laughter.

He spoke of an old friend who with embarrassment told the following story: She had just gotten saved. The Holy Spirit had turned on some of the lights concerning Christ's finished work of redemption. She wanted to impact some of her neighbours. (She couldn't bear to see them go to Hell, or so she thought.) Written invitations were sent out for a Bible study. She cleaned up the house. Scattered around open Bibles. Put away all the secular magazines and novels. And baked fish-shaped cookies! Fish-shaped, like the ancient secret symbol of believers in the catacombs of Rome! Yeah team.

The scheduled evening came and not a single neighbour arrived. In the silence of her "sanctified" living room she thought she could hear laughter. The world's laughter. Clearly this was not the way to get to know strangers; to affirm them; to help them; to gain their trust; to represent the riches of belief.

The remembered barb which came from that ill-conceived outreach stayed with this woman throughout her Christian walk. In Brown's words the world's laughter had been a "severe mercy". It had been inevitable.

Steve Brown is often one to warn that the Christian does not have it all together. The healthy church is honest about its short-comings. The scriptures contain many mysteries and half-contradictions which will only be half-understood this side of Glory. To represent a stiff certainty and smugness in the face of all the world's problems is to render no service at all. Scripture delivered in such a spirit comes across like snowballs packed with pebbles.

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