If you were asked to describe the state of the people of this country, what would you say? Would you describe them as people who have purpose and direction, and know where they are going? Or would you describe them as people who are here one minute, gone the next, and with no real hope or ambition?
Well, I think we know what Jesus would say, because he said it about his own generation. He described his own people as fickle and indecisive, and not really knowing what they wanted. They were people who expected others to behave as they wanted them to behave, but in the end were never really happy with anything that anyone did at all.
Indeed he told a parable to describe his people, as children playing games. Like children sitting around playing musical instruments, expecting others to dance to their tunes. And he illustrated his parable to describe the, then, current situation.
For John the Baptist they played a happy tune—suitable for a wedding—but found that John wouldn’t dance to the tune. Instead they noted that John was a sad sort of figure—he wore strange clothes, he didn’t eat the right foods—so they dismissed him for being too mournful. But then Jesus came along, and he was a happy figure—he ate lots, and he celebrated with the people. And yet they refused to play the happy tunes that they had for John, and instead played a funeral dirge, which Jesus refused to dance to.
Now it’s important to note that neither John nor Jesus tried to dance to the tunes that were being played. Both were faithful to the commands of God. But then Jesus’s point is that even if they had tried, the people still wouldn’t have been happy them. John was sad—and they weren’t happy with him, because they wanted him to be joyful. And Jesus was joyful—but they weren’t happy with him, because he wasn’t sad. Is it any wonder, then, that Jesus described his people as being like fickle children? They didn’t know what they wanted; they were changeable in their demands. And he concluded that only God’s children could have any hope of being consistent—because they had access to God’s wisdom.
Now does the world that Jesus knew ring any bells for us? Well, I’m sure it does. Indeed sometimes it can seem as if we are surrounded by people whose expectations swing madly from one extreme to another. After all, how often do we hear people say that they want God to be a God of justice, but then insist that their own mistakes shouldn’t count against them? How often do we see people wanting God to be a loving Father one minute, but then one who is willing to turn a blind eye to their misdemeanours the next? How often do we find people seeking guidance one minute, but then freedom to live the way they want the next? People want a saviour, but they want to do it their way too.
So even today people are fickle and inconstant, and even today only God’s people have any real hope of understanding his wisdom. Which, I guess, tells us where we should be. Because even now we need to remember that we need to dance to God’s tune, not that of the people—just like John and Jesus. But then even if we tried to dance to the tune of others, it is highly unlikely they would be happy with what we do anyway.
So what kind of world do we belong to? One that is fickle, and inconstant; one which swings from one extreme to the other, never being really happy with either. One that wants a saviour, but wants to do it their way too. And the message for us? Well the thing we need to remember is the need to consistent in ourselves, and in our faith. People may be fickle, but God isn’t. And there is only one tune we should be dancing to—and that is God’s tune. There is no other way.
Posted: 12th September 2016
© 2016, Brian A Curtis