A year ago, our grown kids in Virginia invited us to go with them and our two grandkids on a Disney Cruise to the Bahamas. Well, I’ve been to the Bahamas several times and I live in Florida, but this was “with our grandkids,” so, of course, we said, “Yes!” A few weeks ago, January 5, my wife, our daughter, and I followed our son-in-law and their two children from Gainesville to Port Canaveral. We made it down I-75 fine, the Turnpike fine, and through Orlando fine. Somewhere on the B-Line expressway, I said to our daughter, “How many miles do you have on that van,” pointing ahead to the van in front of us. She said, “Dad, that isn’t our van. That one has a Florida license plate, and ours has a Virginia plate. That one is a Toyota and ours is a Hyundai, and that one is green and ours is blue!” Oh my, was I embarrassed! I had been following the wrong car! So, I hurried ahead to catch up with the right car.
Doesn’t it seem that so much of our world is “following the wrong car”? The movie “The Wolf of Wall Street” is based on a true story: one of millions of dollars stolen, fraud, debauchery, indecent excess, and the guy gets 22 months in jail and is now on the speaking circuit! A headline in our newspaper on Thursday: “Nearly 50 per cent of black men and 40 per cent of white men are arrested at least once on non-traffic related crimes before they’re 23”! We’re following the wrong car, and we don’t even know it! And look at Syria, Iraq, Sudan.
It’s easy, so easy, isn’t it, without even realizing it, to begin following the wrong car? This is true even for “followers” of Jesus. That’s why Paul warned: “Don’t let the world…squeeze you into its own mold” (Rom 12:2, Phillips). That’s why worship is so important, for in worship, with a community of other followers of Jesus, we are reminded through word, song, symbol, and fellowship where the “Lead Car” is — to figure out if we really are still following the right one, or if we need to change and catch up to the One that leads to life, life in all its abundance.
And that’s why theology is so important. How many of us know persons who are following a God who is viewed to be angry, ready to pounce, ready to send people to hell if they don’t say just the right words in just the right ways, who is capricious and mean? They’re following the wrong “car.” I’m so grateful for the Wesleyan message that God is a God of infinite love, or as John Wesley put it in his famous hymn, “Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown”: “Thy nature and thy name is love.” Or, as his brother Charles penned: “Amazing love! How can it be that thou, my God, shouldst die for me? My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed thee.” He was following the right car. Thanks be to God.
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. (2 Tim 1:7, NIV)
Whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. (Phil 4:8, NIV)