We live in a time when there are congregations designed to meet every desire. Do you like contemporary music? Do you like traditional music? Do you like a young pastor? Do you like an old pastor? Do you like modern architecture or traditional? Do you prefer Sunday centric or mission centric? Do you…do you…do you…?
“Church hopping” and “Church shopping” are phrases that are now significant parts of the American Christian experience. Long gone are the days of aligning with a particular doctrinal standard and being a part of that particular congregation. Long gone are the days of being committed to church discipline and the like because, well, you just go down the street.
While much of this is owed to the individualism inherent in the Americanization of the church in the United States there is something deeper that I think we have largely lost.
Paul, in Colossians 3, challenges followers of Jesus to “put on” certain qualities as a result of their identity in Christ. One of these is “…patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
I think that we have largely lost this in our congregations. We, the people who ought to understand the most about forgiveness, lack the willingness to patiently bear with one another and forgive. Why would we? There’s another congregation down the street that will “meet my needs” more. Their music is better, their pastor is cooler, and the people are nicer.
I love how Paul assumes the existence of conflict within the community of faith. We are all broken and imperfect. None of us will do the right thing all the time. We will sin against other people and other people will sin against us. It’s part and parcel to being a human in relationship with other humans. Instead of patiently bearing with one another we too often pick up our Bible and go.
To be patient demands from us a strength and courage to step into conflict. We must turn and look at it straight in the face. Then, as we do, we extend forgiveness.
Are there times when fellowship needs to be broken? I think so. Particularly in situations of abuse. At the same time, we must also wrestle with the necessity that sometimes church discipline is necessary and is not abuse. In the same way that disciplining a child is not always abuse. In the same way that there is a clear line between sending a child to their room and neglect, there is a line between proper church discipline and spiritual abuse.
I long for the day when “church hopping” and “church shopping” are things of the past.
In that same passage in Colossians 3 Paul tells us that we are chosen, holy, and beloved. If we can begin to see other followers in that light it makes it just that much easier to patiently bear with one other extending forgiveness. Why? Because God is. God is patiently bearing with us and forgiving us.
Let us do the same.
from The Subversive Journey https://danielmrose.com/2016/08/26/im-taking-my-bible-and-going/