Sheryl Crow had a hit song several years ago, “If it Makes You Happy” and the lyrics in the chorus are “If it makes you happy, It can’t be that bad. If it makes you happy, Then why the hell are you so sad?” Sheryl is an amazing artist but apparently a not so amazing theologian. She was sharp enough to get out of the Lance Armstrong mess for sure. And I still like to roll down the windows and sing that perfect summer song.
One of the early church fathers, Augustine of Hippo (come on, that’s funny), summarized the Christian life in simple terms and Martin Luther later echoed him. Let me paraphrase; “Love God and do as you please.”
That sounds so stinking radical to a recovering fundamentalist like me. But if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. If we truly love God, what we will do is what He will want us to do. It’s not a cute take or a slight tweak, it’s a fact. When we love God, we will follow His direction.
Maybe the best way to see this is in John’s Gospel. For years I would read John 14:15 and think to myself “Jesus is scolding me when He says “if you love me, you will keep my commandments”. Now I realize that in the 14th chapter of John, He makes many huge promises, and this is one more HUGE promise. It isn’t a scolding, it’s a loving promise. “If you love me, of course you’ll obey me”!
Jesus is simply stating that if we truly love Him, we will live like it. Which makes me think Sheryl Crow may be accurately portraying the vast majority of Americans. Doing what we want, miserably unhappy and woefully discontent. Why? Because we missed the whole “if you love me thing”. You see, we didn’t get the benefit of the “do the right thing”, because we didn’t get the because “we love Him thing”.
On our own we are so far gone that we can do nothing more than be a recipient of His grace. And through His grace He has set us free to love Him just as we are, to love others just for who they are, and to even love ourselves as He has created us. I bet I’ve heard 100 preachers make a statement like “God didn’t call us to be happy, He called us to be holy.” Wow, that’s a motivator! I think He called me to love Him and in that, obey Him and in obedience to Him; experience joy, and in that joy – HAPPINESS!
So let’s rewrite Sheryl Crow’s song; “If it makes you happy, it must be Jesus”
Pretty Cool, huh?
Sheryl Crowe singing “If it Makes you Happy”