Monday, January 4, 2016

Wine and Liquor, Love and Grace

There's always been a tension in a man's heart between the God he seeks to know and the One he'd rather hear about. It's the tension between trying to believe in an incredible God who intimately loves you...and trying to find something practical in all of this theology.

And it's a tension that has always been a struggle for priests, prophets, and pastors. Today as much as thousands of years ago.

Micah talks about men who say, "We will preach to you about wine and liquor!" Then he concludes this prophecy by saying, "They would be just the type of preacher you want." (2:11)

I don't know about wine and liquor, but the same could be said of many preachers in our contemporary world. Attempting to be relevant, attempting to be "cool," attempting to grow church numbers or reach the unreached or evangelize the community, it's far easier to preach wine and liquor than love and grace. Why?

Because men understand wine and liquor.

Men understand beer and football, barbecues and fishing trips. Women understand good sales and cosmetic rituals, quilting and household chores. Men understand fathering. Women understand mothering. Men understand sex. Women understand relationships. These are, of course, stereotypes. When talking about any group of people, it's hard to deal in anything more tangible than stereotypes, but the point is this: we far more easily understand the things that are part of our daily lives than we do the things that tend to reside only in our hopes, tucked away deep into our theologies. Love, grace...these just aren't as "relevant" as wine and liquor. This is not our day-to-day.

And it's not just this. It's not just that wine and liquor are so relatable, that they're so "relevant." It's that wine and liquor do something to the spirit that changes it. They do something to a man; he gets drunk on them. This, too, is a hallmark of our preaching today. We're all so content with messages that make us feel something different, messages that make us almost drunk - disoriented, disinhibited, freer - that it doesn't occur to us to question whether this has anything at all to actually do with God. If it makes us feel good, we reason, it must be God. After all, isn't that what God is all about?

That's where our priests, our prophets, and our pastors are failing us. Tremendously so. And look at what Micah says about those I earlier referred to from his text as "men." Micah doesn't call them men; he calls them "liars and frauds." Liars and frauds preach wine and liquor.

Liars preach wine and liquor as though it's more real, more relevant, more meaningful than love and grace. As though baseball games and grocery runs, block parties and symphony tickets, even small groups and special offerings have more to do with life as we know it than love and grace, mercy and salvation, peace and promise. God's love and grace are the lifeblood of man; anyone who preaches anything else is a liar.

Frauds preach wine and liquor as though the entire aim of preaching itself is to make a man feel better about himself or about his life. As though getting a man high on good feelings and drunk on good vibes is the entire aim of the message. As though God desires nothing more for a man than this disinhibition, this so-called freedom. As though God is more about feeling good than He is about actual good. God is good; anyone who preaches anything else is a fraud.

Yet that's what we're preaching. That's what we're talking about. Those are the parallels we're drawing between God and this life we're living - we're surrounded by wine and liquor. We're all drunk. And we like it that way. 

Because we all understand wine and liquor.

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