If heaven were not already Paradise, the mere fact that no misunderstanding will mar its joy would make it heavenly.
Drat it! I got word recently of yet another misunderstanding and its sad fruit: broken relationships, deep hurt, and the waste of precious energy that could be put to far better use.
Careful now, lest you think I’m writing about anyone we might both know.
Remember the story about the fellow in England who sent a note as a joke to his prominent acquaintances saying, “Flee! All is discovered!”? Within a week, they’d almost all left the country!
Broken relationships are so common that almost anyone who reads this might think, “Goodness gracious! He’s writing about me and . . .”
No, I’m not. But the lesson will fit us all.
As I understand the situation, a man—an exceptionally good man—got his feelings hurt. He was disappointed by something that happened in his church (a Presbyterian church, not that the brand makes an atom’s worth of difference) with which he disagreed seriously. His disappointment turned to anger when he realized that his pastor and most of the folks in the church felt he’d over-reacted. He responded by over-reacting, effectively cutting himself off from those who thought he’d loved them as family. He had, but this time, his love failed, and the ground became fertile for a crop of bitterness.
Nope, I won’t tell you about the presenting issue behind the fuss and the fracture. I’ve long thought that the best lesson from the two good sisters’ fuss the Apostle Paul mentions in Philippians 4 is that nobody remembers or cares why they fussed; the point is that they did, and they shouldn’t have.
Even if the offended man I’m thinking of here was right, he was wrong. That he allowed his scruples to fracture the fellowship was far worse than the issue at hand.
In this case, almost no one else at his church thought the issue as serious as did he, and it’s a good church (not one given to regular in-fighting) which warns me that even a fine person can be beset by carnal pride that says, aloud or not, “I’m wiser, more scrupulous, more committed, than all of you; I can even turn my back on you and feel holy.”
How desperately Christians need to read one of the most practical chapters in all of the Bible: Romans 14. Gray areas in which equally committed Christians make different decisions have always been difficult for the church to handle. But St. Paul and God’s Spirit in Romans 14 point to the way to deal with precisely such matters, and say plainly: Love each other. Don’t judge each other. You are all saved by grace and grace alone. Uniformity of practice is not required. Love is.
Life is too short and the Christian family too precious to be fractured by the pious piffle Satan builds up in our minds as being all-important. How much of it is really more important than our unity in Christ?
God can use people with strong personalities. Thank God when they’re right. Watch out when they’re wrong. “Those readiest to die for a cause easily become those readiest to kill for it.”
And it might do us good to ponder the fact that, ever since Christ died, the first folks to show up with hammer and nails at any crucifixion are the “spiritual” folks who consider themselves more righteous than the believers at the other end of the pew.
When we fuss, unbelievers see it and Christ is dishonored. Is the fight worth it? In my experience, almost never.
Oh, Lord, why would you want petty humans like us in your church? Wouldn’t angels have caused a lot less turmoil?
Copyright 2021 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.