So What?

John 14.1-14

“Do not let your hearts be troubled…” or “So What?”

Image

I know I’ve talked before about two very important words, two words that changed my life when an old Pentecostal Pastor said them to me when I was a teenager.

I was full of teenage angst and neuroses, I think I was an above average worrier, but maybe all my friends lay awake tormenting themselves with the same doubts and insecurities.

I went to hear a guest preacher, and as he said to me, so I now say to you.  The words that changed my life are:

“So what?”

“So what?” are two very underrated words, they can make a huge difference to our lives, if properly applied.

For example:  When you are in a hurry to get somewhere and the car gets a puncture, you spend half an hour put on the spare time, only to discover that it is flat as well.  What is the Christian response at this?

Do we fly off the handle in a rage, take it out the man from the AA, who gets cross and takes it out on his colleague in their lunch break, who goes home and takes it out on his wife, who takes it out on her oldest daughter, who takes it out on her little brother who kicks the cat?

Or do we say “so what?”

“So what if we are late?”  “So what if things don’t go exactly as we planned?”  “So what if we look at bit silly in front of the man from the AA.”

Most people I meet or overhear getting upset about something, getting angry about something really have very little reason for their upset.

There is an old saying quoted ironically by fishermen:

“Where there is danger, fear or doubt,
shout and scream and run about.”

When things go wrong we could “shout and scream and run about,” but most of the time when things go wrong “so what?” is the best response.

It is not that we don’t take serious things seriously.  Sometimes we have to act, sometimes we have to get cross.  

As Christians we are called to try and get a better perspective over what is worth getting upset about, and what we can greet with a “so what?”

Jesus did not get upset when his disciples broke some small rules about work on the Sabbath.  Jesus did not get upset when his disciples ate with dirty hands.  Jesus did not get upset when he discovered the people he was talking too were prostitutes, or tax collectors, or lepers, or terrorists.

Jesus did get cross when religious leaders were turning the ‘Court of the Gentiles’ in the Temple to set up stalls and make money, he overturned the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple in a rage.  

Yet Jesus did not get upset when the noise of children made it heard for the disciples to hear his teaching, in fact, it was when the disciples tried to turn the children away he did get cross – with the disciples.

So how do we decide what is worth our anger, and when we should just move on?  As Christians we are called to follow Christ – read the Gospels, read them daily, read them slowly, read them thoughtfully, perhaps with a book to help explain the often hidden meaning.

But also there are some principles we can apply, that help us make use of “so what?”

Jesus summed up what was important with the brief set of commands “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbour as yourself.”  If our anger could be an expression of love, then it is worth getting angry.  For example if we look at injustice and poverty we should not shrug our shoulders and say “so what” – we should act – and this Christian Aid week has given us the opportunity to do that.  But if someone is rude to us at their door when we are collecting for Christian Aid there is nothing to be gained by getting angry, it’s their problem, so “so what?” 

This perspective – the ability to say “so what?” is not an option for Christians, it is how we are commanded to live.

Jesus puts the concept of “so what?” much more eloquently:

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.
In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.

By most people’s reckoning, the worst thing that could happen to us is that we die.  Ironically, of course we all die anyway, and for the Christian we have the promise of Jesus: “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places.”

We need not fear even the worst that could happen.  The grave goes not have victory over us, death has no sting.

Jesus did not say these words when everything was easy.  He spoke in a land seething with unrest under Roman Occupation, he spoke to a group of persecuted outcasts on the edges of society, he spoke while the authorities were plotting to have him killed, and in the middle of this chaos he said “do not let your hearts be troubled.”

A word of caution:  Some Churches make people feel terribly guilty for not being happy all the time.  Sometimes we do get down, when we loose a loved one, or someone we love is sick or in need.  

We should never feel guilty for not feeling happy, but if there is no reason to be unhappy, we should ask why.  Jesus came to bring us life, and life more abundantly.  We Christians know that life has a meaning, that God loves us – we have everything to be happy about.

There are a few lines of prayer that sum up the sentiments I am trying to put across.  The prayer was made famous by Reinhold Niebuhr, although it is thought he found them from an older anonymous source rather than composed them himself:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can
and wisdom to know the difference.

If something in our life is wrong, and we are able to put it right, we should put it right.  If there is nothing we can do, we should greet it with a “so what” and remember God’s love is the most important thing, and that is always and forever.

The ‘Serenity Prayer’ is actually part of a longer prayer with which I will conclude:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time,
accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will.
That I may be reasonably happy in this life,
and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.
Amen.

Advertisements