Heardened Hearts and Ringing Cellphones

I broke from my traditional routine of watching Sportscenter as I got ready for my day today - I watched Headline News instead.  In the midst of the short segments about Iran, healthcare debates, and floods, there was news about Hugh Jackman (I'm not sure how that's as newsworthy as other things, but it is...to somebody).

What happened with Hugh struck me.  It turns out that he and Daniel Craig (the most recent James Bond) were doing a stage performance when someone's phone rang on the front rows.  Hugh stopped mid-dialogue to address the situation.  They didn't show the culprit, but by the time he finished, I'm sure the violator felt two inches tall and at least a little slimy.  I say bravo, Hugh Jackman, bravo. 

More than once, cell phones have gone off in church, usually mid-prayer or mid-sermon.  I look out over the crowd some Sundays and a few of our teenagers are using worship time to text their friends.  Among all the noise of life, cell phones have quite possibly become the most disruptive and disrespectful of all the noises.

Now, understand this, I'm very addicted to my "crackberry."  It goes with me everywhere and I've had to train myself to ignore it at certain times.  The only time the ringer is set to an audible level is at night in case there is a church emergency or during the weekend, when I leave it on the kitchen counter and don't carry it with me.  Throughout the week, it's on my hip and vibrates with every phone call, voicemail, text message, email, and tweet.  I've had to learn when that's even not appropriate though.  Some meetings I can get away with it going off and even have the ability to respond.  Other meetings, I've learned that I have to turn it completely off and give my full attention to whatever I'm doing.

Not everyone has bothered to learn good cell phone etiquette though.  I'm amazed at the number of phones that go off at a spleen-bursting level in very inappropriate places.  I'm even more amazed at the number of people who don't know that the red, end-call button will shut the damned thing up - these are the people that try to smother the phone, thinking you can't hear it, as the kids on the back row start singing along to the Snoop Dog song you've set as your ringtone.

Churches, in recent years, have countered these issues with expensive equipment.  Other companies, such as play houses and movie theaters have also bought cell jamming equipment.  With this equipment running, there are "fewer bars in fewer places."  I find it sad though that these places can't rely on people to at the very least, silence their phones.  How many times do I have to hear "A Country Boy Can Survive" in a funeral service before something changes?

Meanwhile, we gripe when we start to lose our freedoms with the addition of new security equipment or new rules and laws.

In Mark's gospel, the Pharisees approached Jesus, asking if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife.  Jesus' answer gets to the heart - "Because of your hardness of heart [Moses] wrote this commandment for you."  In other words, because you couldn't be counted on to do the right thing on your own, you've got a new rule to live by.

Think about it, the Ten Commandments (that some people have worshipped more than Christ) were given to the Israelites because they couldn't be counted on to live responsibly and in faithful relationship to the one true God.  Why are we having to regulate our banks' activities more closely now?  Because human beings can't be counted on to act appropriately.  Why do churches have extensive policies about how to serve meals to bereaved families?  Same reason.  Most of our rules, policies, and laws are ridiculous when you really think about it, but so we can live together, we have to limit each other and assume responsibility for each other.

Jesus said, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them" (Matthew 5:17).  Paul said, "Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law" (Galatians 3:25).  So what do we make of regulation? 

Remember what Jesus said to the Pharisees?  Because their hearts were hardened, they were given regulation.  What's the alternative?  If we will live our lives pursuing God and honoring God by loving God and loving others, we will have no need for regulations.  God's Holy Spirit becomes our regulation with everything from not killing other people to learning when to turn off our cell phones.

I'm pretty sure this is why the greatest commandments, according to Christ, were to love God and love others.  If we can do those things, in everything that we do, we will have all that we need, God will be honored by our lives, and everything else will fall into place just as it needs to be.