If you have been following my thoughts - a few have admitted that they do, and I would expect that among those who have not admitted it, there are those who disagree with me. That is perfectly admissible. We learn more by exploring our differences that we do when we merely accept opinions without ever challenging them.
Today, I am here to talk about the many reason I like the church, pray for the church, and do what I can to promote it. I don't particularly care for denominations, but they have their place. I only wish they were on the streets where the rest of us live out our lives.
It was on those streets that I met the two men I want to tell you about today. They are old friends of mine. Of course I am not referring to their ages. I am the old guy. I met both of them on the pages of the newspaper I have loved every since I moved to Tennessee. Of course, I am referring to The Tennessean.
Brad Schmitt used to be a regular contributor, a staff member of the paper if my memory serves me as well as it is supposed to do. Now I learn that he has been, maybe still is, in "recovery". He is writing about some of the people he has met through the meetings which are part of that process. I am fortunate that I have never reached the point where I thought it would help me to get involved with recovery programs and I was fortunate enough to not have loved ones urging me to get involved.
I recognize, however, many of the people he refers to in his article. I have known them in the many "meetings" I have "chaired" over the years, hoping to help people deal with their problems involving employment. I recognize many of the symptoms Brad mentions. And I completely agree with his most profound finding - that "needs" come in a variety of ways all connected to the personality of the complainer. And far too often, that person serves to disrupt the reason for the meeting. There is a solution and most of us don't recognize it. It took awhile but Brad has taken a firm hold of it.
The basic problem is not with leader, per se, but stems from his/her willingness to recognize that he/he is the problem. In the church, we are commended to love one another. That is our calling. It has little to do with the problems of organization, finances, location or any of the myriad problems that confound church elders. It needs to be laid at the feet of all of the members, that there are people who are - in fact, hard to love. We sit next to them in the pews, we meet them coming and going and when we are not listening to the most basic of all of the commandments, we try to ignore them. As Brad suggests, it is a challenge, but challenges are typical in our daily life. Ask anyone who has thought of excelling in sports. There are "naturals" of course, but they are few and far between. The big "money" goes to those coaches who can convince the "hard to learn" to become team players. And so it should be with church members. It is not the places in the hierarchy, we should seek, but the eternal friendships we create by the efforts we make to love others.
Turning to my other friend, he will have to remain nameless as I don't have his permission to remind others of his wisdom - as I write this. His headline read, "Rejoicing at execution is a sign of spiritual sickness." He was referring to the pathetic situation in Oklahoma where an execution failed to be carried out as programmed and led to the agonizing death of the prisoner. No one wanted that, of course, but then if you read any of the numerous articles relating to this incident, you would have read of those who rejoiced at his agony,
I have personally known three murderers in my life. One was a good friend at one time, another was an extremely talented artist and musician, while the third became a friend I met while visiting "death row" here in Tennessee. All three were eventually released from their sentence and have gone on to live honorable lives. They are the products of what the church calls, redemption. Of course, those of us who believe in the Bible are destined for eternal life based on that same concept.
Based on my own experience challenging the death penalty, I have found there are those who believe it is legitimate based on what they have heard the Bible says, ..."an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." Others are content to just remove another "bad" person from our midst. I have challenged churches where I had a voice and am met with an attitude that life and death appear to be God's business and a lay person can only agree or disagree with the leadership of the church. Which brings us back to the command for us to love one another. Loving a murderer isn't easy, I know all about that, but when you see the benefits of actually loving others, you really want to fall on your knees and thank God for His wisdom. I won't go as far as my friend in suggesting that rejoicing at the plight of others is a sign of spiritual weakness, but I will contend that the penalty for not loving others is far worse than any of the other transgressions. It robs you of the possibility that you might learn from the experience,
My simple prayer for you is that you will think on these thoughts.