I believe I understand the sentiment.
We got to know something about him. His mannerisms, his personality, his pet peeves, his little delights and with what we gathered together we get an idea about him. So when he’s not around we look to do something in memory of him or in his honour.
No problem with that sentiment in and of itself. However those bits and pieces we’ve put together almost like a living Wikipedia page on him, does not necessarily mean we know him. It particularly backfires when we do something in his honour that completely misses the point of who he is and what he means.
Two examples help with my point.
As you know, Stevie is one of the most gifted musicians and songwriters of the 20th Century. The impact he left on music will survive him when he dies for at least one hundred years. Thankfully while he’s still alive people are paying tribute to him. The most obvious way to do so is to perform a cover of one of his many brilliant songs.
I listened to a concert that was in his honour and heard some renditions of his songs by some fairly popular artists. The look on my face resembled someone who had bitten into a slice of fruit hoping for it to be succulent juicy orange only to find it was the bitterest tasting lemon on earth. You know the look.
The point is, famous though the artist was, their rendition of the Stevie classic was … what’s the polite and reserved term for it? … an absolute abhorrent abomination.
It’s certainly wasn’t what he wanted and a couple of close up shots of the man himself showed that he was dong well to tolerate that which was clearly causing him to wonder if the sense of hearing should have joined his eyesight.
That Guy In The Class
The second example regards a fella who was part of a class I was in some years ago. He was a quiet type, only coming out to say hello when it was time to do group tasks and recordings and the like. Few people knew him well and fewer of those were in the class. We admired and respected him though.
So when it came to his birthday, well meaning busybodies in the class thought it would be good to get him a ‘surprise’ birthday gift. When he received it, I remember clearly the look on his face. Remember that look about expecting the orange and biting into a lemon? Multiply that by ten and you’d get half of how pained his expressions were under his gallant efforts to appear grateful for the … gift.
It certainly wasn’t what he wanted and when I spoke to him some years later, he divulged how much he was hurt by the class getting him something they thought he like that he actually despised. Indeed it was no shock to discover that he no longer retained the gift and I thought he did rather well to merely put it up for sale on eBay.
I believe sometimes as followers of Jesus we put on a lot of things believing it’s what He would have wanted. Initiatives, projects, teachings, gatherings, videos, causes, campaigns, speeches, fund-raising schemes, meals, buildings, schools, etc. Some go to great efforts putting on things for Him believing that it’s what He would have wanted.
Yet scratching the surface of these things looking at the heart behind them and what time is taken to actually consider what He wants and is actively engaged in doing, we see not just a minor discrepancy, we see a chasm of difference between what His heart longs for and what we in our own busybody selves present. It’s like the Cain offering.
Some have even built institutions and organisational machinery perpetuating these things in conventions and norms with little to no thought to what Jesus actually wants.
It’s sad, but it need not be inevitable in our Christian walk.
The love and grace of God are powerful enough to stop us, to gently nudge us and get us to stop the machine and see what’s going on. The mercy and patience of God are effective enough to let us see what we’re doing and realise that we’re going askew to what He calls us to do. There are experiences, circumstances and occasions that God will use to get our attention so we can stop with the well meaning busybody sentiments, actually repent and dismantle all the high places and idols of systems, routines, initiatives, activities and mind-sets we have constructed with little to no regard for the Messiah we allege to follow.
It’s so interesting to read of times of reformation and revival in the life of the children of Israel. It highlights the fact that there are always those who can wake us up to how far we fall from God and call us to return. God loves us that much to do so in our lives today. We can do what it takes to return to Him and what He calls us to do even when it calls for us to deconstruct so much of what we built.
A Final Word
One day, He said He will say to some that despite the things they’ve done, He doesn’t know them other than being a worker of iniquity. We can’t afford to serve Him with sentiment that misses Him. We can’t afford to give Cain’s Offering to God.
It’s not what he would have wanted.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden