Smile, God Loves You

Dr. Robert R. Ball


Sermon first presented September 12, 1971

Block 2

Block 3


Scripture: Matthew 7:21-23

Sermon by
Dr. Robert R. Ball
Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church
Houston, Texas – September 12, 1971

IT WAS PROBABLY a male chauvinist who said it, but it’s a
cute story anyway. If you ask a man where he got the steaks he
cooked for you, he will reply, “Bill’s Meat Market.”; but ask a
woman and she will respond, “Why? What’s wrong with them?”

I really don’t believe that women are more defensive than men.
It’s all of us, male and female, young and old, who carry around
tons of defensiveness on our shoulders.

* We start our day prepared to explain why we overslept,
why we don’t think straight before 10:00 in the morning,
why we can’t get to church on time.

* Men have to explain to the boss why the report isn’t finished,
why we can’t work late on Thursday, and why we can’t make it
on what he’s paying us.

* Women have to explain why their hair looks a mess, why their
tennis game is off, and why they can’t possibly serve as
homeroom mother this year.

And the kids? A kid, kicked out of school for the third time,
defended himself by saying he didn’t really like school all that
much; it was just the principal of the thing.

Most lovers’ quarrels, most parent-child conflicts, most
management-labor disputes, accomplish very little – precisely
because all of us are so defensive. Everyone is defending his
own position so vigorously that he doesn’t even hear what the
other person is saying. Discussions get nowhere until and unless
somehow the participants get past the level of being defensive.

It’s more than the words we use. it’s an attitude toward life.
When we’re thinking of how we will handle a troublesome kid or a
business critic or someone coming from the church to askl for a
pledge, our possibilities are limited to those things that will prove
us right, no matter how questionable our position may actually


A defensive argument never convinced anyone. A recent,
widely publicized Houston happening illustrates that fact. When
the Reverend Leon Everett voted with the conservatives to fire Dr.
Garver as superintendent of the Houston school system, his
explanation was short and simple. He was personally offended by
Dr. Garver’s refusal to give him a report he wanted about one of
the school superintendents. Then all hell broke loose. The poor
Reverend Everett found himself bombarded by leaders from both
the black and the white communities. Under heavy attack, his
explanations suddenly got more detailed and involved. finally they
got him to a mass meeting in the Black community. Everett came
forward with a long and detailed listing of Garver’s errors and
inadequacies. But the reports from the meeting indicate that no
one’s mind was changed. Those who supported Everett still did,
and his opponents were only the more enraged.

That’s how it is with defensiveness. it never accomplishes its
purpose. A defensive argument never convinces anyone who
doesn’t already want to be convinced.

What’s more, defensiveness often achieves exactly the
opposite of what we want. For example, a wife, wanting some
affection, says to her husband, “Why don’t you give me a kiss?”
Her husband, also wanting some affection, replies, “Why don’t you
give me one?” She says, “You know I always want a kiss but I hate
to be too forward.” “Too forward,” he screams, “I’m always
trying to get some affection from you, but what I get is snubbed.”


They were both so defensive that neither one got the affection
they wanted You can’t love a defensive person. He won’t let you.

One of the very best of defensive tactics is to get the other
person on the defensive. Let’s say you’re lecturing your teenage
daughter for getting home an hour and a half after she had been
told to be in. Right in the middle of it all she says, “If you think my
sleep is so important, why are you making me stay up so late to
listen to you?” Strange, isn’t it? You started out thinking that she
was the one in the wrong.

Living on the defensive, as most of us do to one extent or
another, becomes a wall holding us from any real contact with
other people or with life. You can hardly relax and enjoy being
alive when you have to work so hard defending your right to exist.
Defensiveness is an epidemic that stifles out life and love and


So why are we so defensive? Basically, I would guess, it’s
because we carry around a deep-seated fear that down inside
we’re really very wrong. We stay on the defensive lest someone
also find out how weak and unworthy we really are. We need an

Recently I read where one man was defending himself by
saying, “We’re the first generation to have grown up as kids when
the kids were always wrong, and to be adults when the adults are
always wrong.”

* We know we haven’t been perfect husbands or wives. Most
of us would admit it. But we’re still defensive because we think
we could have been much better than we are.

* We know we haven’t been perfect parents, but we get
defensive because we can hardly stand the thought that we’ve
been as bad as it sometimes appears we are.

* Kids know they haven’t been perfect kids; but they feel that if
they took the rap for everything thrown at them, they could
never be able to hold their heads up straight.

So everyone goes around defending himself, fearing in his heart
that his position isn’t really defensible, which makes him struggle
all the harder to make it appear that it is.

The biblical understanding of man begins with the assumption
that we ARE wrong, that we HAVE fallen short of the love and
purpose for which we were created. If we don’t start there, we
don’t start with Jesus Christ at all. That’s why many do not start.
They are too defensive to admit that they need a Savior. They
want to keep the illusion going that they can think and work their
way through anything all by themselves.


That’s the start, but the Gospel doesn’t leave us there – though
many of us get stuck at that point. The Gospel of jesus Christ is

My right to stand before you as a pastor today is not the result
of any merit on my part. If it depended on that, there’s no way in
which I could be permitted to be here. I am here because, by the
gracious mercy of God, he is willing to use selfish, insecure
persons like me in his loving and creative purposes.

The love of God in Christ is our hope, our only hope; but it is
hope enough and real enough to allow me to go out and be a part
of life – indefensively – to live with confidence and joy.

When I get “down” on me (which happens more than
occasionally), I get defensive. My energies get used up trying to
defend my right to be a husband and a father. I even use up
sermon time defending my right to be a pastor. And nothing
constructive happens for me or for anyone else. But when I dare
to believe the forgiveness and acceptance of God, I don’t have to
be so defensive. I am able to examine issues for what they are, to
hear what others are really saying, to open up my defensive shell
and let life pour in. That’s when life is good.


Now let’s look at our scripture.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’
shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who
does the will of my father who is in heaven. On
that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did
we not prophesy in your name, and cast out
demons in your name, and do many mighty
works in your name?’ And then I will declare to
them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you
evil doers.”

The first thing we notice about these “Lord, Lord” people is
how defensive they are. They came to the Lord explaining how
carefully that had said all the right words. They even did the right
deeds. But somehow they missed out on what was going on. They
never got into the spirit of what God was doing. God wanted to
love them, but you can’t love a defensive person; he won’t let you.
Jesus said he didn’t even know them.

NO one gets to know a defensive person. All you ever know of
them is their enormous egotism or their humble, humble yuk! Or
whatever outer shell they use to keep you from knowing who they
really are. They don’t even know themselves.

A little later in his ministry, Jesus told the parable of the
prodigal son. The saddest character in the story is not the
prodigal, but the brother


who stayed at home. This boy did all the things that were expected
of a good and obedient child.

* He probably had some fantasies about going off to the far
country as his kid brother actually did, but no one ever knew of
them. He seemed to pure for that.

* When the prodigal returned to be received with great
rejoicing, the older brother erupted like a volcano.
Defensively, he started listing all his virtues.

* The father grieved, but he understood. “You don’t need to
be so defensive, my son. I appreciate all you have done. I
love you with all my heart. Everything I have is yours.”

* The most important thing the father wanted from his
sons was not their hard work but to receive and share
his love. That’s what it’s all about.

The boy refused to believe that he was loved. So he had to try to
prove by his deeds that he was worthy of love. That’s not how you
find love – and he didn’t.

What does God want from us? Doesn’t he want the hungry to
be fed and the victims of injustice to be freed and the lonely to be
visited? Yes, he certainly does. But you know how it is when
someone does something very fine for you but does it
defensively, trying to prove something – to show how generous
they are or that now you owe them respect and appreciation. It
makes you wish they hadn’t even done it.

When someone gives for the joy of sharing the good things
God has given to him, it’s entirely different. When our energies
aren’t used up being defensive, they can be used in loving. That’s
when we come alive. That’s doing the will of God.


God loves you. It seems like such a weak and empty phrase in
the midst of all the horrible pains and problems that beset us, but
it is by far the most important thing we can know in getting at those
pains and problems. When we know that God loves us – really
know it – it takes us off the defensive. We no longer have to live
such an uptight, protective life. Knowing ourselves to be loved, we
can confront life and other people more realistically. All the gifts
and insights and energies God gives us suddenly become
available for use. It’s a new kind of life.

Everything depends on how we react to Jesus Christ.