http://youtu.be/WqyQykA1Bcc, or simply scroll down below.)
I have an unusual story today—a modern church parable. For those at a recent and very large conference belittling all things Charismatic (people and beliefs, many of them misrepresented in my view), for those who say, “all are included,” and for those who say, “Only those who receive,” for those who say one cannot lose salvation, and for those who say, “Oh, yes, you can,” and for everyone trying to build a house on only a small piece of the ground of Christianity, this is for you.
In the town of Folderol, lesser things sometimes become primary things.
Most everyone in the town knew Jesus, and often delighted in talking together about their experiences with Him. They were pretty thrilled with Him and oftentimes with each other as a result.
But on one crisp, sunny day in Folderol’s main square, a crowd gathered around Bob Bloviate. Bob thought it would be a good idea to honor Jesus during the next Christmas season by adorning the square’s pine trees with strings of clear lights. “The more the merrier, I say!” exclaimed Bob Bloviate. “Imagine how glorious it would be to walk in the light!” he extolled. “Why, it’s so obviously a perfect plan that I don’t know why we haven’t done it before,” he said. Mary Marvel, filled with zealous excitement, shouted, “Amen! It’s the right thing to do!” Nodding heads all around affirmed it to be so.
Until, that is, Fred Fanfare cautiously raised his hand. “Well, Fred,” said Bob Bloviate, “what is it you want to say?” Summoning his courage, Fred Fanfare said, “I like multicolored lights. I think it would be better to hang multicolored lights.” There were subtle coughs and slight winks amongst the crowd. “Really?” questioned Bob Bloviate. “Multicolored lights, Fred? I think we’re all in agreement that clear lights are more true to the holidays, you know, more in keeping with the glory of God. Am I right, everyone?” Everyone murmured that he was . . . everyone except Fred Fanfare.
Somewhat more determined, Fred Fanfare responded. “No, I believe multicolored lights would be more representative, more faithful to God’s character throughout history. He has chosen people from a multitude of nations, so I think mine is the better idea.” Suddenly, Bill Bandwagon spoke up. “You know what, Fred Fanfare has a point. I mean, when I look back through history, well, I have to say that God’s chosen people are sure a mixed-up bag of tricks!” Both Bill Bandwagon and Fred Fanfare chuckled, as did a few others in the crowd.
Feeling the tide turning against him, Bob Bloviate thundered his answer. “This isn’t about people, Fred, this is about God! If we’re going to be true to God, we’ve got to focus upon what brings glory to Him! And I say clear lights represent His power, purity, holiness, and eternal nature. What could be better than that? Right, folks?” Mary Marvel seemed to nearly lift off the ground in exuberant passion. “That’s right, Bob! It’s always been this way! Why, I can feel it in my heart—I just know clear lights are the way forward!”
Several in the crowd uttered support and even pumped their fists in the air. “Clear lights! Clear lights are the way to honor God!” exclaimed Tom Testify. “Everyone knows it. Come on, Fred! Can’t you see?” But Fred couldn’t see. Or wouldn’t.
“Now, wait just a minute,” cautioned Fred Fanfare. “I believe that if Jesus were here today, He’d confirm that multicolored lights are eternal reminders of His immutable character. He’s certainly no respecter of persons, and has no allegiance to any one tribe or tongue. Am I right? I can’t believe you people would put Him into such a tight box!” Bill Bandwagon shouted support, and Ginger Genuflect revealed that she, too, was on board by kneeling in prayer. “Oh, Lord, we know you have always been an inclusive God, and that multicolored lights are the perfect representation of your character. We just thank you for leading us today. . .”
Tom Testify interrupted: “Oh, Lord, do not harshly judge this wayward daughter, for she knows not what she says. Show her the truth, Lord, that she could repent.” Here and there a soft “Amen” could be heard from the clear light supporters, which had begun to draw away from the multicolored light proponents and sort themselves together.
Just then Nancy Needy, having left her ailing mother’s side moments before, strode into the opening left by the now divided throng. “Has anyone seen Jesus? Can anyone tell me where He is? I need Him.”
Betty Bluster, who only moments before had sided with the clear light gang, fairly hissed, “I can tell you where Jesus isn’t, that’s for sure!” When several people shouted “Amen!” and Bob Bloviate said, “Preach it, sister,” Fred Fanfare could take it no longer. “This meeting is over! All those of the multicolored lights, stand with me! We must separate ourselves from the clear lights heathen. Together we’ll see to it that truth prevails! You and you only are invited to my home for food and fellowship. I’ll provide the coffee! Who will bring dessert?” Ginger Genuflect raised her hands and said, “My brownies!” Arnie Argumentative offered, “My chocolate chip cookies are better than anybodies!” And Hank Hawkish laughed and said, “I’ll bring my appetite!”
The clear lights gang embraced each other with glee, and the multicolored lights supporters drew together as well. “’Bout time we had some clarity around here,” said Bob Bloviate. “Oh, thank God!” exclaimed Betty Bluster. “I’ve never felt such unity.” Feeling the passion of the moment, Connie Codswallop cried out, “I’ve been needing a cause to get me going! I’m committed to a community of clear lights!” Tom Testify offered a way forward. “Let’s get together at my house. I’ve got some paint and poster board, and my wife, Imma, would love to make some signs for us. She’ll be so glad to finally be using her gift!”
Almost forgotten by the gathering groups, was Nancy Needy. With a bewildered look on her face, she said, “Wait, will you? Lights are good and lights matter, but they don’t matter like this. And what about Jesus? Can you tell me where I might find Him?”
“He’s around somewhere,” replied Connie Codswallop. “Everyone knows He’s always around, right?” A bit of smugness lit her face. “But I wouldn’t bother asking anyone from the multicolored lights crowd. They’re clueless!”
“Oh, as if you know!” an angry Fred Fanfare replied. Feeling encouraged by his supportive group, Fred went on. “It’s obvious that you’ve never really known anything about Jesus. What else would explain your ridiculous beliefs?” Everyone in the multicolored lights group nodded and harrumphed happily. “Look, Nancy, I’m sure He’ll be here soon. Can’t you wait? What’s the rush? We’ve got plenty to do—why not join us?” asked Fred.
Before Nancy Needy could get a word in, Betty Bluster blurted, “You don’t want to be a part of that bunch, Nancy! They’re dangerous, and I’ve lost most any respect I ever had for them. I’ll be getting rid of any of their books I might have in my library, as well, and I’d advise you to do the same. Even a little bit of poison can kill you, right, Nancy?” Bob Bloviate weighed in. “I think I speak for all of us, Nancy, when I say you’d be welcome in our fellowship. I can tell you’re a discerning woman, and I’m sure you agree that clear lights are God’s best, right?”
Nancy Needy replied, “Oh, well, I don’t know exactly. Do I have to know? I mean, can I take a few days to think about it?”
“Sure, you can, Nancy!” beamed Bob, “And allow me to serve you by coming to my home where you can enjoy some fine coffee and dessert with people you’re sure to enjoy! People just like you!”
Mary Marvel suddenly whimpered. “Oh, I’m so confused. At first I thought decorating with clear lights was the way to honor God, but now I think multicolored lights might be better.” Jubilant, Fred Fanfare said, “Yes, Mary! I knew God was leading you to the truth. What a good decision you’ve made. It’s so good to live in the light, isn’t it? After all, no one wants to be lukewarm!” gushed Fred Fanfare.
“You’re either for us or against us, Mary Marvel!” countered Connie Codswallop. Clearing his throat and riveting his focus upon Mary, Tom Testify said, “You’re making a choice, Mary. It’s either clear or multicolored. Beware of back-sliding, because your eternal destiny depends upon it.”
“Jesus?” cried Nancy Needy. “Jesus? Are you near? I need you now, and I’m so confused by all this. I just want you . . . You.”
Fists clenched, Bill Bandwagon said sternly, “Nancy, you have to make a decision. Over there are the heretics. Do you really want to be led by them? Do you want to be a part of them? You need to be with us.”
Nancy Needy, her face pale and eyes wide, said, “But I’m not sure I want to be led by any of you. I just want Jesus. Can you tell me how I can find Him?”
“Look, Nancy,” said Bob Bloviate, “You have to be part of a community seeking truth, and that’s us. We’re Bible only. None of that humanistic liberalism will be found here. That’s over there.”
“Oh, that’s rich!” sneered Fred Fanfare. “Who set you up as high and mighty, you hypocrite? Why, I remember when you had a string of multicolored lights on your house at Christmas time! I even helped you put them up! That’s the truth!” Those of the multicolored lights group murmured their agreement.
Bob Bloviate simmered with anger. “How dare you throw my past sins in my face! I’ve grown! I’ve changed! I’ve seen the light, and it’s clear. Anyone with any maturity knows it. But I don’t expect that from you, Fanfare! You and all those with you are not on good terms with the truth. And that’s the truth!”
Straightening a bit and crossing her arms, Nancy Needy said, “But I don’t know if any of you have grasped the absolute truth, since that’s who Jesus is. I trust Him. My experience with Him is always completely safe and deeply loving. But I’m not getting any of that from any of you. I don’t think I’m going to find Jesus here.”
With that, the newly formed gangs, each filled with confidence in their knowledge of the truth, turned their backs to each other and began to follow their leaders to their sanctuaries.
“We’ll pray for you, Nancy,” a triumphant Bob Bloviate exclaimed. “We’ll pray that one day you’ll make the decision to join us. We’re going to build the best display of God-honoring clear lights anyone has ever seen! To God be the glory! Amen?” “Amen!” his members shouted in unison. It felt so natural and invigorating to them.
Fred Fanfare, his faithful following, said cheerfully, “We’ll get a multicolored lights fund started right away. With God on our side, we’ll build something so powerful that the glory will be evident for miles and miles around! Hallelujah!” “Hallelujah!” mimicked the faithful, reveling in unity.
As snow began to fall in the square of Folderol, Nancy Needy was left alone . . . but soon she wasn’t.