On the drive to Dallas this morning I was listening to a little Don Williams because who doesn’t love Don Williams? It was one of his classics, “I Believe In Love.” The kids love it! Not really, but there is only so much children’s music you can listen to and I like to think when they grow up they will be able to say, “I liked listening to Don Williams with my dad in the car.” Doesn’t that sound like a fun memory?
Anyways, as we were jamming out to country classics like Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Hank Williams, one of my favorites came on with a little country twang and I noticed one of his lyrics:
Well, I don’t believe that heaven waits,
For only those who congregate.
I like to think of God as love:
He’s down below, He’s up above.
He’s watching people everywhere.
He knows who does and doesn’t care.
And I’m an ordinary man,
Sometimes I wonder who I am.
And I believe in love…it’s a classic. As we drove down the interstate singing as loud as we can in the car with the family I thought Williams articulated a perception of God and eternity that many have in our culture today. He recognizes the disconnection of heaven being only for those who attend church. It doesn’t sit well with him and I can imagine as he wrote the lyrics he must have wrestled with a type of God that is partial to only those who gather on the hours of 10-11am on Sunday. Seems a little short sighted on God’s part, huh?
He also concludes God is love, which is correct, but that He is also watching everyone and He knows who does and doesn’t care. This is a conclusion that I think many have today as they settle and conclude, “God knows, God knows my heart” and ultimately, “I am not going to let a group of people tell me where I stand with God, I am going to trust Him!” Which sounds noble at first glance, but there is more than just what is on the surface.
The first is that absolutely heaven is for more than those who only congregate. In fact, heaven might not be for those who congregate. Attending or not attending church has little to do with us dwelling in the presence of God for eternity.
The second is that God does know who does and doesn’t care and that is why He came to us, walked among us, and willingly laid down His life on the cross. He had to because none of us really care. We might care more or less than others and it might be a way for us to feel better or worse about ourselves, but the gospel teaches that for us to dwell in His presence for eternity we would need to care for all things and all people 100% of the time. That is why He entered into humanity so that through faith in His death, burial, and resurrection, we are indwelled with 100% of the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
In the end Williams frustration with the division between those who do and do not congregate is just as divisive as those who do and don’t care. Instead of competing against one another to see who is “worthy” enough to go to heaven, perhaps, we should cling to the worthiness of Christ.
Either way it is a classic. My favorite part is when he sings about “believing in old folks”. Makes me laugh every time!