We have a clever mouse. (Yes, there have been multiple house guests.)  We have tried poison traps and snap traps — no matter the brand or bait the mouse avoids capture. A friend recommended glue traps to Megan. She said her husband takes care of the traps before she gets up in the morning… I wondered if he would do the same for us?

But disposing of the mouse wasn’t a worry. I put out multiple glue traps, in high mouse traffic areas. No mouse. The little guy senses danger… plus, can any bait be effective when Mr.E leaves a smorgasbord in his wake?! Still we kept the traps out in our storage room, hoping.

This past week I was working on the floor upstairs and the kids were downstairs watching a movie. Midway I heard Ezekiel screaming. I ran down to find he had opened the door and walked into the storage room. While we couldn’t capture a mouse, our son was easily caught. Yelling as he drug around two traps. Of course I couldn’t get the socks free, so I pulled his feet out…

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry…” 1

This week I visited with a teacher about college students leaving the church. There was an urgency to “train children up in the way they should go.” As though the church has missed a lesson.

And I agree, I think we can teach our children more effectively. But I don’t think young people leave the church because they missed a lesson. Instead, I think they got a lesson we didn’t intend to teach. In the same way my children learn more from my actions than my lectures.

As the church we have set out to change the world. We want people to embrace Jesus, to live the life God desires. But in this our message also points against the life God doesn’t desire. Which creates insiders and outsiders.

There are insiders and outsiders, but the church often makes the dividing line more than simply Jesus. When make our message “Jesus and _______”, people miss Jesus, and only hear about the baggage. With these extra rules and beliefs our message becomes what we are against. More troubling, since people commit these acts, our message becomes the people we are against. Then, rather than pointing people to God, we are pointing out people going to Hell.

When I was a college student the crisis was over evolution. Could you remain a Christian and believe in evolution? “Of course” is our response today, but then the church made evolution a salvation issue (“If you don’t believe in seven literal days, how can anything in the Bible be historical?”).  Today college students struggle over different issues. Will we continue to teach that these debates separate them from the love of Jesus?

When young people leave their home, school, friends, church and enter college their life is upended. It is the time to question everything. To discover their own way and beliefs. But if the church adds baggage beyond Christ we make unnecessary conflicts for our kids. We think we are capturing sin to bring salvation to the world, but in fact we have trapped ourselves.

Legalism only damns people. It is the reaching love of Jesus that changes everything.

1 You probably already know – I didn’t or had forgotten – this isn’t a quote from John Steinbeck (from poet Robert Burns). I suspect a lot of my life I am giving credit to the wrong person — especially myself.

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