We live in a word where any of us with access to a computer can say whatever we please about anything or anyone we choose to dislike and I have been amazed at the lack of serious contradictions. In my circle of friends, I simply do not listen to the complaints, the whining if you prefer as I do, about what is wrong with us and where we are heading, if we do not change our ways. My position is a simple one - I believe in God and although there have been moments in my life when I thought that such a hope was fleeting, the fact is, just as I was ready to believe that the worst was about to happen, somehow, God has always intervened.
So it was yesterday as I opened my mail to find the regular monthly issue of Steve's Letter from the Key Life Network and inspired by this long time friend of mine, Steve Brown. In case you have not heard of him, you need to take time to listen to a few of the thoughts he expressed in his letter.
He starts out by sharing our mutual belief that we love the church and he quotes Ephesians 5:25, "Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her."
He quotes Henri Nouwen, another older "friend" of mine who adds, "..."When we say you love Jesus, but you hate the Church, we end up losing not only the Church, but Jesus as well." He goes on to add, ..."the Church is an often fallible human organization that needs our forgiveness,,," and I might add, if we realize where we were when we first came to realize the validity of Christ's message to all of mankind, we should recall that the forgiveness we were offered is of the same nature as the forgiveness the Church deserves.
Steve reminds all of us that we are more often hurt by members of the Church and not the church itself. When Derlene and I talked about marriage, I had to realize that she had been hurt by members of the churches she attended, not because of what they did, but what they did not do; that is, reflect the love that we all eventually learn is the essence of the One we accept as our personal Lord and Savior. We tried to find a church, but there were problems, so we opted for the "Church" that was offered on our TV sets on Sunday morning and found a Pastor who provided words of encouragement for our daily lives from the Bible. And after our church, we turned off the TV and discussed how the words we had heard were applicable to our daily lives. We learned together that church is not necessarily what we might like to believe, but always was, what we chose to make of it.
Our first obligation of being associated with a Church is not to boast of its size, nor the competence of the ministerial staff, now even the friendliness of the people, but have we been inspired to develop the practice of loving one another. The Apostle John writes that, "We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, 'I love God' and hates his brother, he is a liar, for he who does not love his brother who he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen, And this commandment we have from Him; whoever loves God must also love his brother." (I John 4:19:21)
Steve reminds us that as as a well known and highly respected public speaker and Pastor, he has been on the receiving end of rejection and judgement and a lack of compassion and was quick to remind all of us with ears to hear, he has been on the other end more times that he can count. Now, you know why I love him and highly respect him as he has had to walk through the storms of life as we all do, and yet, he is like all of us, his ability to forgive has risen him above those storms.
We learn how to fix others when we have perfected the practice of fixing ourselves.
Many among us can related to an incident when a farmer was approached by a man who had just ran over one of the farmer's calves. Prepared to pay the farmer for his loss, he asked, "How much did the calf cost?" "Well now, it is was only worth $200 today, but in six years - if you have not killed him, it would have been worth $900. So, I am out $900." The man reached for his checkbook and wrote out a check for $900. "Please note that I postdated the check six years from now."
I related to Steve's story immediately. I spent the first 45 years of my life - in church, and apparently the only thing I ever believed was that I was good, because of all the good people around me. Then, I would discover they were not as good as I had expected and dared to ask God about it. He was quick to remind me that it was not the "good" nor the "bad" of others, but the righteousness displayed by His Son that really matters. I accepted His explanation and have walked in that light every since. I finally realized there is very little to be gained by accepting post dated checks.