Don't Be A Runaway Christian

John 6:56-59 (66-67)

Back around 1961 Del Shannon recorded a pop tune called, "Runaway." Part of that tune always pops into my head whenever I use or come across the word 'runaway.' It goes something like this, "...My little Runaway, run, run, run, run, runaway."

In the tune he was wondering why his girlfriend, with whom he thought he had a strong bond of love, ran away and left him. I think that Jesus must wonder that about lots of Christians, too. The bond of love seemed strong-the Christian loving Jesus. The bond from the perspective of Jesus loving us is ALWAYS strong. We are the one's who weaken the bond of love as we 'run away.'

"I'm not a 'runaway,'" you say in response. "I'm here at worship. I'm not a 'runaway'." There ARE people who 'runaway' from worship, however. They don't like the preacher or the music or the format, whatever it might be, and they 'run away.' Many don't attend any other church. They just use that excuse for not going to church and apply it to the reason why they don't go to ANY church worship service. Runaway Christians.

But just being at worship doesn't mean you're not a 'runaway'. There are so many ways we run away. Most of them we don't even recognize. "Coasting" is a form of 'runaway.' That is, many Christians, when they get to a certain age, just coast. "I did my part. Now it's some one else's turn, some one younger." "I can't do the things I used to do." These folks don't recognize they are 'runaways.' No matter what age we are, God still calls us as individuals to fulfill a particular purpose; that's why the Holy Spirit led each of us to join a church, or maybe not join, but to attend worship regularly and participate in the life of the congregation. Your purpose in life is not just to fill a pew on Sunday morning. There are so many positions that need filling in a lively, vital congregation. Some folks are doing double and triple share. That shouldn't be.

People know when God is calling them to do something. You know. Don't run from what you've been called to do. It will only bring you trouble and a restless spirit. Jesus will help you do what he's calling you to do through the power of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes God is calling and the person thinks, "I don't know how to do that, so God must not really be calling me." Well, you're in good company with folks like Moses and Jonah and lots of prophets. They didn't think they were up to the task either. None of us are-it's always ONLY with the help of God that we can do anything for God's glory.

So, there are lots of folks whom God calls to positions in the church, but they 'runaway'-runaway with their excuses tucked between their legs like a tail of a frightened animal. Do you really think that any of them, or even you, would runaway if Jesus actually came up to them and asked them? (or you?) I doubt it. And it IS Jesus who is calling each of us to work for his Kingdom on earth. Look at the first disciples whom Jesus called-they just up and left what they were doing to follow Jesus. They didn't runaway. Neither did so many of the women in the early church who opened their homes to be house churches.

In our Gospel lesson today we hear words that are very familiar to us because they are included in our liturgy, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." Those are words we sing, coupled with "Alleluia" before we hear the Gospel Lesson for the day. Does it surprise you to know that those words follow these words in our Gospel Lesson for today: "Because of this (hard words for folks to grasp and believe that Jesus spoke) many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So, Jesus asked the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" And Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."

Many of the disciples ran away when the going got tough, just in terms of the WORDS Jesus spoke, not even getting to how tough it would be following the teachings of Jesus and standing up to the warped standards of the world. The phrase, 'When the going gets tough, the tough get going,' doesn't mean 'get going' in the sense of running away. No, it means they stick it out, work it through. They don't run away.

Oh, there are SO many ways to 'runaway.' Some people run away from the world. That is, they don't read the paper, don't watch the news. Instead of being a Christian working for Christ in the world, they choose to ignore the news as if that's going to help. As a Christian we've all been equipped to help-running away from the world is being a runaway Christian. You can read the news, watch the news and not be a victim of it. At the very least you can pray about the situations you read or hear about. Choosing to be ignorant is not what Christianity is about at all. People run away from hard verses to understand in the Bible. Rather than understand, they just ignore those verses. They pick and choose what to follow in Christ's teachings. If they can't understand or if it's too hard to follow, they choose to ignore it, to run from it. Don't be a 'pick and choose' Christian. Don't be a 'runaway' Christian.

It is just so incredible to me that Christians don't jump at every chance to study the Bible, to better understand what Jesus was teaching us. So many folks are running around with old ideas about what the Bible says. One woman admitted to me that she didn't read the Bible, but then, incredibly, she turned around and used it to support her position. She'd say, "I don't read the Bible, but doesn't it say in the Bible...." and then she'd paraphrase the quote she wanted from the Bible, which, of course, she had wrong. She mixed in secular teachings with Biblical teachings. She mixed in sayings from literature and made them scriptural. Even if I told her 'no' that's not what it says in the Bible, it didn't matter because it was part of what she had built to support her position and she wasn't moving from that position. And she didn't HAVE to correct what she was saying, really. Because there are so many people, some staunch Christians included, who are not really sure what the Bible says, so they believe her statements.

These are 'runaway' Christians. They run away from knowing the truth. They have made up their mind about what the truth is, without even knowing what scripture actually says. They don't WANT to find out because it might mean changing their position.

There are some biases and prejudices in Christianity which some Christians try to support by quoting parts of scripture taken out of context. The folks who don't know what the Bible says, which includes LOTS of Christians, believe what folks say who support their bias or prejudice with supposed scripture, because those folks are very convincing. So, we have folks who are 'runaways' from the truth and they don't even realize it.

We have a Bible Seminar, "Walk Thru The Bible," coming up at the end of September. It's sponsored by the Lutheran Churches of the Westminster Conference. We are so fortunate that it is happening right here at Trinity. I would think that we would have a couple hundred adults and children participating. I would certainly hope so. It is a fun and lively way to become familiar with the Bible. There is no note taking. It takes place on one Friday evening and the next Saturday morning. The only cost is for the price of the workbook you take home, because Thrivent has helped us with matching funds.

Don't be a runaway Christian. Don't use old excuses to run from what God is calling you to. God calls you and the devil gives you excuses. Which are you going to follow?

Now for those of you who are already doing a couple volunteer jobs at Trinity, and you feel a call in your heart, YOU have to sort that out. God may put it on your heart to help someone ELSE take that volunteer job, not you. If you pile up, take on too many volunteer jobs, THAT is the devil helping you to 'burn out.' Over-committing is just as much being a 'runaway' as those who don't commit at all. Why? Because over-committing means you don't help others fill those positions. Ever heard the phrase, "It's easier to do it myself than to try to get someone to do it."? That's being a runaway-not expending the energy to get someone else to volunteer. Plus, of what benefit is it for you to 'burn out' or for you to take a position that someone else could fill?

So, don't be a 'runaway Christian.' Don't just fill the pew week after week for worship. Don't run away from what God is calling you to do to use your God-given abilities and talents. And if you can't do something you USED to do, you need to be looking at the NEW door God is opening for you to use your abilities in another way, OR, even that God has given you NEW abilities to use.

Don't be a run, run, run, run, runaway Christian. Instead, Catch the Vision. Get involved. Answer the call that Jesus has extended to you-you as a part of Jesus' Church on earth-the body of Christ. If God has called you to do something, then God most assuredly will help you accomplish whatever it is to which you are called.

Don't be a runaway. Stay and be part of the love that comes from answering the call.


Read more sermons by Pastor Brie