"And it was told King David, "The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God." So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing. And when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened animal. And David danced before the Lord with all his might. . . . So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the horn. As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart." (2 Samuel 6: 12-16)

I can almost hear her, can't you? It isn't hard to imagine her leaning out of that window and shouting down at David, "Stop that this instant! You're embarrassing yourself! Act your age, for God's Sake! It ain't fittin', it just ain't fittin'!" Well, perhaps those weren't her words exactly, but I don't imagine I'm far off. Michal had her own opinion of what dignified and acceptable behavior before the Lord was to be like - and David simply wasn't measuring up. Michal had forgotten how to dance.

I thought of this as I read Steve Brown's book, A Scandalous Freedom which is filled with stunning statements, to be sure, but one specifically caught my attention as he spoke of our "excessive need to march instead of dance." I suppose I had to read the chapter several times before I even began to understand what he was trying to get at - much less, begin to catch a glimpse of myself in his statement - as someone who needs to relearn how to dance.

We see it all the time - Christians (who have the most to dance about) forgetting the freedom purchased for them by Christ - forgetting that -- and, over time -- allowing their attention to become focused upon a slavery to do's and don't's. They seem to possess an excessive need to see everyone marching to the beat of the same drummer and all bound to the same rules - as if to say, "If I can't be happy, then you shouldn't be happy either!" In reality what happens is that our eyes have shifted off of Christ and become set on ourselves - on our own goodness. We forget how to dance! Do you doubt what I am saying? Then ask yourself this: Do you typically have more fun attending a ballgame than you do attending a worship service? If your answer is 'Yes', then it should serve as an indication that something is wrong - you've forgotten how to dance.

And it isn't just you - it's me, too! Somehow, somewhere along the line, it's as if a perverse obsession comes over us to thank God for grace on the one hand, while trying, with the other, to earn the very thing God has given me freely through the Son. We become so focused on ourselves - OUR acts of obedience (or lack thereof) - OUR service (or the lack thereof) - OUR attendance - OUR witness - OUR tithing - and on and on the list goes. Somehow, the very "good news" that first endeared our hearts to Christ ceases to fill us with that same excessive joy and sense of freedom we once experienced. Steve Brown puts it this way: "We become stiff." We become obsessed with our sin and forget that our sin is not a problem with God "so much as our stiffness." The sin problem He has already dealt with by sending His Son who redeemed us by His blood. But now, what will save us from our 'stiffness' - our obsession with rules and regulations and strict observances and carefully constructed religious mumblings? Is it not that same gospel - that very same 'good news'?

David wasn't thinking about himself on the day the ark returned to the city. The wholeness of his heart and mind was given to the contemplation of the beauty and the glory and the greatness of his God. How could he not dance? As he later wrote in Psalm 11, 'God had turned his mourning into dancing. God had girded him with gladness.' How, then, could he not sing and dance and praise His God? In light of God's faithfulness and grace, what greater gift could he offer Him than his exuberant joy?

But you see, we tend to forget this and in the forgetting we turn the freedom Christ purchased for us into bondage. We exchange dancing for marching, thinking that it is in our marching (our strict obedience to the rules) that God is more pleased.

Brown, in his book, told of an event in the life of Martin Luther that has bearing on this discussion. Evidently, at some point Luther was asked by someone what he thought about Christians engaging in works of penance - especially those which would flow from a genuine trust and faith in Christ. "Luther replied that he supposed that was OK, but then questioned what kind of arrogance would make a Christian think that anything he could do would ever be more sufficient than 'the blood of God's own Son.'"

Did you get that? Our dancing gets transformed into stiff marching when we forget the grace of God in Christ and begin to think that we are responsible, by our own actions, for putting a smile on the Father's face and keeping it there. Such a thought not only cheapens grace but is an outright betrayal of it. Listen, the only thing we have to offer God is our sin and our gratitude and praise. The very thing He longs to see in us is real joy - joy inexpressible and full of glory - the kind of joy that makes us want to dance in His beloved presence! So, let's dance!