One step up and two steps back.

My Dears,
It has been a long and emotionally exhausting day. I won’t bore you with the details; suffice it to say that some old wounds were reawakened this afternoon, as well as some new ones exposed. Our church is still working on reconciliation and today was the first of several meetings in an attempt to move in the right direction.

It feels like one step forward and two steps back.

One issue in particular pushed my buttons: our contemporary worship service. Some people in our congregation have been very hurtful and hypocritical regarding this issue. They smile to our faces and then say ugly things behind our backs. They turn a deaf ear to the words in 1 John 3:18: “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

Our pastor tried to address this issue in love. He is very aware of its divisive nature. He asked all of us who attend the Sunday Night Live service to stand. He told everyone present to look at our faces. Then he said, “When you say nasty things about SNL, you are saying nasty things about these people.” (paraphrased).

This put a face on the service, and for that I am grateful. These people have been unwilling to do this up until this point. They want to pretend that “it is nothing personal; I just don’t like that kind of worship.” What they fail to understand is how integral this service has been to my family’s spiritual life. This is my husband’s ministry. It is his calling. How can I not take personal mean and spiteful comments about something so dear to him and me?

I was surprised at the surge of anger I felt as I stood before those judgmental eyes. I know that my face was defiant, not loving. I regret that moment of weakness. I am not skilled in deception as some of our disparagers are. But later, as Jeff and I discussed all of the proceedings, God whispered to me to fill my heart with love again. And it was not so hard, because He showed me how to pity these. He opened my eyes to their shallow faith, and how they miss so much of His love because they are afraid. They are saved, yes; and they love the Lord. This is true. But they are afraid! They miss so much because of their reluctance to leave their comfort zones. I want to ask them, when was the last time you stepped out in faith with God? When was the last time you had to totally rely on Him?

These are the same people who wanted to close the sanctuary doors so that people who come late to worship will “learn their lesson”. They are like the people of the church of Ephesus, who the Lord said had, “forsaken your first love.” They put their rules and judgments before the love of God. They are like the Pharisees who became so caught up in their rituals that they failed to see the truth! God help them to open their eyes!

Christ told us that love is the most important commandment. Love God and your neighbor as yourself. Yet, so many times, we allow trite, judgmental thinking to come between us and God. I have been just as guilty as the next. I have allowed the narrow-mindedness of these people to lure me into anger.

No more. Christ lives in me. These tactics are strategies of the devil. I will not let him have victory.

Revelation 1:7 says, “…To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” The American Heritage Dictionary defines overcome as, “To conquer, defeat. To surmount; prevail over. To overpower or exhaust.”

We will overcome. Because God is on our side.

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