When I was a naturalist, teaching at an outdoor education center, part of my job was to put on campfires for our students. These campfires were a combination of ecology, natural history, and plain old-fashioned camp evangelism. And so my fellow naturalists and I would dress up in wacky costumes, sing campfire songs, and do skits of all varieties.
|William Holman Hunt|
"Light of the World"
One of those skits played on something I was all too familiar with: guilt. It went like this... a girl was having a party with a bunch of her friends and they were doing something questionable like playing truth or dare or spin the bottle. While they are playing, she hears a knock at the door. Expecting another of her friends, she answers the door and finds Jesus (one of the male naturalists wearing a long white robe). In her surprise, she says something like, "Oh! Jesus (which, in this context sounded close to breaking the third commandment), what are you doing here? I wasn't expecting you... what? you want to come in? Well... now is not really a good time. You see, all my friends are here and some of them don't know who you are... and, well, they might not understand why we hang out. Can you come back when the party's over? How about tomorrow?" And she closes the door and returns to her friends and her questionable game.
A few minutes later, we hear a knock on the door again. She goes back to the door, and there's Jesus again. She hems and haws again, explaining that this really isn't the time or place for him and that she appreciates his friendship and all, but she can't really afford to have him at the party. She shuts the door again. He keeps knocking. She turns up the stereo to block out the sound and returns to her friends.
The lights go out and every camper is guilty... every naturalist is guilty... and every time we did this skit, I probably squirmed more than anybody else. During this time in my life, I was trying to adjust to living among Christians - the real kind - the ones that, by my standards at the time, had gone off the deep end... and I still hadn't dared to jump off with them. And so, on my days off, I could still be found occasionally sitting at the blues bar, sipping whiskey and hanging with the 'regulars' who were closer to my kind of normal. And this was a part of my life where Jesus just wasn't welcome... not yet.
And so every time we did this skit, I felt guilty. I felt dirty. I felt ashamed. But nothing changed...
In our wacky costumes and youthful enthusiasm, we had it all wrong! We focused on the wrong part of the skit. The girl at the party was front and center. She was the main character. She was the focus. We all identified with her behavior, thought of areas in our own lives where we have turned up the stereo... and then returned to our party. We felt terrible for a time... but then the lights went back on, there were more songs, there was a thrilling hike through the dark, and by the time everyone went to bed that evening, the sting of the guilt had worn off.
But what if we had done the skit differently? What if Jesus had been the main character (as is truly the case)? What if the whole skit had taken place from the other side of the door? We would have seen Jesus standing at the door... possibly amused, definitely patient, positively in love with the girl... but not in a pathetic sick puppy kind of way but in a bold and persevering way.
If we had done the skit from this perspective, we would have all seen the lavish love of our Savior. Love that keeps knocking. Love that never quits when rebuffed. Love that perseveres. Love that draws us away from shallow loves. Love that pulled God into flesh and won't let go until the kingdom of love is complete... until no doors divide.
Until then, love keeps knocking. That's the focus. That's the point. That's the message that has the power to change me... not the message of how horrible and wretched and guilty I am... but the good news that, despite me, Love keeps knocking.