A STORY HAS made the rounds of church bulletins of the little boy who accompanied his mother to worship. The sermon was on the death of Christ, and as the preacher described the actual crucifixion the listening tot began to weep. Soon he was sobbing aloud. People sitting next to the mother glanced curiously, then, seeing the situation, gave her a knowing smile. The mother, evidently embarrassed by it all, leaned to her son and whispered, “Don’t take it all so seriously!”

Perhaps this is the trouble with us now. We are not taking it seriously. Religion is a good thing, kept in its cozy compartment. Preaching is fine, to somebody else, or in terms so general that Satan can “amen” it. We dutifully go through the motions, and even learn the proper phrases and formulas, but somehow never get past the words we confess to the relationships they describe.

So many are good Christians, as long as it is easy and convenient — and does not cost too much. Content with fine houses, color televisions, overtime pay and all the rest, we just cannot find time to tell our associates that One died so they might live forever! When we do get around to discussing “religion,” it too often centers in externals or forms rather than what our world would call the “gut issues.”

We have apparently forgotten that He gave us eternal salvation and told us to spread the good news. When someone of our number does make his “religion” a guiding force in everyday life, the rest of us often excuse such behavior as super-saintly and beyond ourselves or as emotionalism and over-zealousness — and below our pious demeanor. In either event he becomes the strange one, and our convicted consciences are soon back to normal.

Have we left our first love? Or did we just never take it seriously?