I loved Tom Petty. He wrote the soundtrack of my late teen years and then the early part of my marriage. Karin and I drove to West Texas for our honeymoon and must of sang our way through Full Moon Fever about a hundred times. Tom was a surprisingly deep writer, at lest when it came to writing about survival and love. No songwriter is perfect, of course, and I have forgiven him for Spike and Zombie Zoo, but I can’t think of a time when his songs didn’t wake me or at least stop me to think through a lyric.
Tom wrote the song Refugee for his album Damn the Torpedoes. it was a huge hit and you are probably singing it in your head right now. I have had multiple opportunities over the years to think about that song and how it hs applied to my life, and frankly, to the ministry of my church.
You might think that’s odd, but consider.
Tom says you can choose a different road, you don’t have to live where you are. So does Jesus.
Tom says everybody has to fight to be free. Paul teaches the same thing.
Tom says that you get to choose. So does the whole Bible.
Now the context of the song is within a romantic relationship, so depending on your understanding of our relationship with God that might end the metaphor for you; it doesn’t for me. If it did, howver, I would still hang on to the idea that you get to choose how you live your life. You can lay there “in your abandon” and play the victim, or cower in fear, or you can choose to live; you can choose to move on. There are two huge applications of this right now.
The first one is always in front of me and influences my teaching of the Gospel. Jesus said,“In this life you will have trouble.” It’s a theme in the Bible: no matter how righteous you think you are, no matter how unjust it may seem, bad things happen to us a lot. We can’t control it. We can’t run from it. Like that We’re Going on a Bear Hunt story I must have read to my kids a thousand times, “Can’t go over it; Can’t go under it. Oh, no, we have to go through it!” Trouble comes. But you can control how you live during and after the trouble.
One of the things I love about Jesus’ teaching is how wonderfully practial He usually is. His is a livable, workable ethic, and one part of it is to just keep going. Walk, bearing the cross of your calling. You don’t have to live in fear and victimization. Sure, some things will always be a battle, it can make you strong or turn you to glass and then destroy you, but so much of that is up to you.
The second application I see right now is about the pandemic and our response. One of the great freedoms that is supposed to belong to Christians is a freedom from being enslaved by fear. There are a lot of opinions on how we move forward in this fight with the Coronavirus, but let me tell you that decisions born of fear, whether they are fear of death or fear of financial ruin, or almost always going to lead to one kind of failure or the other. Whatever your opinion is, whether to quarantine or not, to open or not, to mask or not, make sure of your motives. Don’t act in fear. Don’t live like a refugee. Why are we so scared?
- Death-Even were I not a Christ-follower I would tell you that living in fear of death always steals life.
- Financial ruin- Sure it would be bad, and probably worse for people outside of our country. Our white western spin on everything keeps us from asking real questions. But people have been poor for along time. Always. And they always outnumber the properous, so there must be something to it. Calm down.
- Losing our Lifestyle-I get the grief. The idea that I maybe can’t get a Cheeseburger or possibly watch football this Fall is making me antsy. But beyond that, our lifestyle needed a little rethink anyway. It will be ok.
- That “they” will take over the country. End the hate, y’all. It’s gonna burn you up.
These things are real, sure. But you choose how to live with them. It feels like we have been kicked around, tied up and taken away, held for ransom. But you don’t have to live in it anymore, and you certainly don’t need to base your decisions on fear. Jesus would say base them on love. If you mask up and stay in, do it for love. If you think we should reopen sooner rather than later, make sure that love is your motive. We choose to love and love is without fear. You can choose to love and be brave.
Like the tv sales guys say, “Ask me how.” 😉