Several weeks ago, I watched this year's induction into the Football Hall of Fame. In almost every case, these exceptional athletes first gave honor to discipline of practicing their faith as a key factor in their athletic success. Clearly, church life had permeated their hearts and minds. Football was their occupation; excellence their goal; but the development of their souls through worship was not discarded or put aside in the process.
I was reminded then of a story Jesus told to his followers about a man who decided to have a big dinner party. He told people about it ahead of time, and when all the preparations were complete, invited his guests to show up. In response, they started making excuses for non-attendance: property, animals, family obligations. Now, the man who decided to have the party got pretty upset that these people chose not to keep their commitments. He sent out messengers to bring in others to the party. And then the story ends with the line, "no one originally invited will get a place at my table."
I've been pondering that story as I agonize over Excuse Number Two for not being in worship. "I can't be there because my children have a sport event, sport practice, birthday party, band practice, stock show, etc."
Everybody needs to develop body, mind and soul in order to prepare for healthy adulthood. Extra-curricular activities serve a vital role in this process. The activity of being part of a team, and of developing a talent, whether it be athletic, musical, intellectual, vocational or artistic, help form the foundation of a person. Friendships form, and great memories are developed. That's not the problem.
Where I wrestle, and I wrestle greatly with this, is that these activities have replaced God. Mind and body development alone cannot stand healthily without the third leg of soul development.
I implore parents to start saying "no" to extra-currucular activities that insist on routine Sunday morning practices, games and events. Yes, special events do take place. Yes, there are occasional tournaments that mean weekends gone. But children and youth who grow up with no knowledge of God and have seen their faith development given no priority will not return later to figure it out. They've seen from their parents that it is unimportant, and rarely change that pattern.
Those who have no understanding of the Bible are severely hampered when studying literature. References to biblical stories abound in great literature, and ignorance is not bliss. More and more scholars are recognizing that biblically and religiously ignorant people cannot comprehend properly much of what is happening in the world.
Those are just academic and political facts. It gets worse. Societies that intentionally refuse to acknowledge that there is an external authority, namely God, who does have a claim on our lives, ultimately degrade into wanton evil. We're not that far from it.
We put our eternal souls in peril when we decide to worship something besides God.
Adults must be adults here and stop this process. I know it is easier to go along and give into the pressure that says, "But Mom, Dad, if I don't play or practice on Sunday, I'll get kicked out."
I understand the pressure. No one wants their children to suffer this way. But all will pay a huge price for this. Individually, societally, morally, politically: we will pay. Going along to get along ends up costing everything.
I return to the story Jesus told: Those who were invited to the party and made their excuses, "But my child has a team practice" may not get another invitation. Those are hard words and I personally don't like them. I want lots of lots of invitations and tons of tolerance for my excuses. But apparently God does run out of patience at some point.
I just continue to pray, "May God have mercy on us and our misplaced priorities." We need it.