Will I dance for your Jesus?
My wife, Peggy, is at a conference this week for women who minister to suffering and abused women around the world. At times the things they discuss get pretty heavy. Girl children get poisoned in Afghanistan simply for going to school (a second major incident just last week), sex trafficking is rampant in Southeast Asia and the republics of the former Soviet Union, Muslim women live behind the veil, AIDS and female genital mutilation are rampant in Africa, blatant infidelity is the norm in South America. These are good women from around the word but, as I can tell from the way Peggy acts when she gets home, the days are hard.
So it was that, after dinner the other night, they had a time of worship together and, as part of it, asked a dear sister from Africa to sing. She sang in her native language, Swahili, and put the English translation of the words up on the projector. I know this woman, she is an incredible saint, and as she began to sing she began to dance. If you’ve ever had an opportunity to worship in an African congregation you know what I mean when I say they sure know how to worship. Before too long she was really moving with the music. Overhead the translation of the lyrics told the others “daughters of Africa, give thanks to the Lord, glorify His name, sing praise to Him….”
One by one, moved by the moment, the other women got up to dance with her. Before too long women from Sweden, Singapore, Indonesia, Turkey, Uruguay, Brazil, the US, and Canada were swaying to the music with her, hands lifted up, face alight in worship. According to my wife it was a magic moment. Other women, smart phones in hand, recorded the moment and, before the night was over, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts shared the images and story around the world.
But in the morning came the feedback from those posts, many of them disapproving. How dare they dance, particularly in such an uncontrolled way! What was wrong with them? They needed to project the dignity and honor of Christ, not dance! The women were hurt and embarrassed. My normally quiet wife was indignant. “We were a group of middle aged Christian women praising God and they make it sound like it was ‘Girls Gone Wild.’”
That day they did their best to take down all the postings of the worship time that had gotten out. In doing this they quoted Romans 14 and their desire not to cause offense to weaker brothers (and sisters, for much of the feedback was from women). I honor them for that but I do have to wonder. Is the purpose of Romans 14 to bring worship down to the tolerance level of the most restrictive of us? Why did the feedback of the “weaker” sound as if they thought themselves the morally superior?
The title of this article comes, as I am sure you know, from the song “I Can Only Imagine.” So let’s do a little imagining about heaven, shall we? I can imagine that, as they stand before the Lord, perhaps the women of that night will “in awe of you be still.” I can imagine too that our Lord, with love and grace, might say to them “You know, we don’t have any ‘No Dancing’ signs here.” I can imagine too that they will dance with joy before Jesus as they did that night.
But that is not all I can imagine. I can imagine Jesus turning to those who disapproved of the dancing; that they too will feel His love and grace; and that He will say to them “You can dance too, if you want.”