Tuesday, February 22, 2011

another hard lesson

Because of our involvement in parachurch ministries and many ecumenical gatherings, Patti and I have met several people who have left their churches and joined others. I have personally been involved in reconciliation efforts among believers, including my time as an elder at my own church where we had a standing reconciliation team (a sad but necessary thing.) Here is another “hard” lesson for us in the Body of Christ:

“Suppose there is friction and bad feeling in your church - what should you do, especially if you are involved in the arguments and divisions yourself? Further, let's suppose that you are in the right, that the trouble is not your fault, and that you are a mature and compassionate person. In that case, I suggest that you should say to the elders and members of the church: 'If I am in any way the cause of this trouble, even if unwittingly, or if my presence will in any way serve to perpetuate it, I will move to another congre¬gation ... I will go away anywhere you wish, and do anything the congregation says - anything, if it will contribute to peace among Christ's flock and its pastors.' Anyone who adopts this attitude will deserve a high reputation amongst Christians, and God's approval.” Clement of Rome

And, if and when we do leave, to not say any harsh words about the place and people we left, instead remembering that we loved and were loved there.

"Where would we have been without this Church? Who would have handed down to us, across twenty centuries, the teaching of our dear Lord Jesus? Who would have encouraged us in the truth, reassured us in the path we had undertaken? The Church already was founded before we appeared on the scene, and had we not come on the scene would have gone on being saints and sinners, capable of high ideals and base enormities, the dwelling place of peace and a jungle of violence. But one thing is sure: if we should fail, overwhelmed by our sins and our faithlessness, the Church will not have failed. The 'little remnant' will have arrived none the less. God Himself is the guarantor." Carlo Carretto, in I, Francis

In the end, we should be known by our love for one another, not our differences. Christ commanded it, Bonhoeffer, a’ Kempis, and others certainly agree, and God approves!

Seeking to be part of the “church without walls” in urban Sacramento we follow Jesus and remember Him. Isaiah 53:7 –

“He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.”

For an example of a loving community of Christ: http://churchwithoutshoes.com/

1 comment:

  1. Well stated, Pat. I completely agree with you. The only thing I would add is that individuals must be able to say their peace. Each voice has the right to be heard. And each heart the right to hang on to what they believe to be the truth.

    We are all on a journey of discovery. We discover daily what our strengths and weaknesses are, where we need healing, where we need correction, what changes in us are positive and which are leading us astray - humans are complex.

    And in the midst of this journey, we all have many needs to be met - the greatest of all of our needs is love. But what we can't seem to agree on is the definition of love. I believe it is acceptance and nurturing. Jesus showed it to his followers. He accepted them with all their differences, doubts, fears and character flaws. He nurtured them by providing comfort, wisdom and understanding. He listened to them and he reassured them that there is no need to fear or worry but that he understood why they do.

    It's difficult at certain times and in certain circumstances, usually ones that are beyond our control or that we perceive ourselves as not in control over, to surrender ourselves to things we do not believe we deserve or that we do not think are right from our own perspective.

    This is where it requires much patience, diligence, wisdom and care on the part of leadership. It is often the failures within leadership itself to resolve their own issues and diffuse the anger, fear and confusion within their own ranks that lead to escalating division in the church rather than solutions that bring unity.

    This is also very often the case within families and within many other organizations.