A little old lady regularly shopped the drugstore where I once worked. She always had a smile and a joke. Sometimes she would be nicely dressed and on her way to church, and she dutifully extended to me an invitation to visit. I made her a promise, indicating that I’d let her know when I was coming. I kept it on the back burner until it was simply time to make good on it.
I like visiting other churches. I like to see what community in other parts of the “family” looks like. Of course, there is the awkwardness of being the newbie anywhere, but that’s easily remedied by welcoming folk. I hoped for such people this time because I knew everything about me and this place was different, except Jesus. Still, I’ve preached a little everywhere, so acculturation was not difficult for me.
I went to the Sunday evening service. The little white church on the hill was quaint and about as dated as its congregation. Still, the people were very nice and cordial. I truly felt welcomed. I sat alone since my customer showed up just after the service began. Then it came time for the sermon. The minister, a senior but sprite man, ushered me into the most humiliating church experience I have ever had.
Somewhere after his intro, he started into a diatribe about this denomination, why it was right and why outsiders (like me) were on their way to hell. He taught and clarified, railed and complained, preached and evangelized straight dogma. I honestly wondered if this was what he had prepared for the people that evening because everyone else there, members of the church for years, certainly knew the script. I was the only guest present.
At times I nearly melted to the floor since it was evident that he was using the moment to give the visitor ‘a learning’ about why he didn’t have good religion. Then, I’d feel anger at his manner and entrenched ignorance. Everything he would say would cause something I learned in seminary to race to my wounds like white blood cells staving off infection. All that was left for him to do was point and say in a booming voice, “YOU, SIR!” and interrogate me on the spot.
What’s Your Motivation?
Why do we do this kind of stuff? I mean, at church, in our personal conversations, right here in the blogosphere? We regularly waste time arguing, criticizing, and lambasting others when we could be demonstrating the love of Christ to people who are hurting and conspiring good works that edify. Being factional is harmful; being right is counterproductive; making heretics out of people who only peeve us is not Christlike.
Behavior like this brings us into the condemnation of the ungodly minister described by Jude. In just 25 verses, Jude delivers a vivid, scathing criticism of false leaders that reads like an Old Testament prophet. He describes their glibness and failure to be conscientious in their speech and to weigh their words and actions. Jude skillfully references the fable of Michael the archangel refusing to be disputatious with Satan over Moses’s body.
And my point, using Jude’s illustration, is that if even an archangel wouldn’t allow himself to become reproachful of Satan out of respect for the Lord but opted to leave the matter with God, how do we cavalierly denounce our Christian brothers and sisters? Our methods may not please the Lord.
There are ways to deal with true spiritually destructive problems, but it seems that most of our squabbles result of our own pride. Let us not take the low road. We dishonor God and wreck the church in the process.