Summary: Outliing the need to work together even when there are people we do not like are part of the team. Put the armour of light on and bury the clock of darkness.
A church that has a vacancy can often cause worry to its members especially nowadays as we search for the right person to come and fill the vacancy. In the days of old, it used to be a whole lot easier to fill a vacant pulpit; we went to the Union and asked them who they had available? Who would be interested in a move or were there any students ready? In some ways it was almost like going to the supermarket and picking them of the shelves. “I fancy that one, he is handsome, I quite like him, he has a nice voice, or she seems very approachable – we’ll have that one.’
Unfortunately we are no longer in that position, our clergy supermarket – the Congregational College is closed to us and we now tend to move people around from church to church, trying in some ways to entice people we think would be good for us. Meanwhile in some instances the church waits worrying that no one likes them enough to apply, worrying that no one loves them. It can be a very difficult time for a church in a prolonged vacancy, with some being vacant for years. One only has to look through Life and Work the Church of Scotland’s magazine and then look online at that denominations website and there are long term vacant churches that one wonders if they will ever call a minister.
I don’t believe we are going to be in that position here at Ebenezer; indeed I am quietly hopeful that it will not be case but in the meantime, what can we do as a church to attract the cream of the crop?
Firstly we must be united in our decision making, we must put aside issues that are personal to us and think of the whole church. In Matthew’s Gospel, we see an example of how to discipline the wayward church member but is it the wayward member – singular or is Matthew actually appealing to the whole church? This is the behaviour that is expected from all Christians, if one does not comply, this is what to do – approach them, point out the error of their ways, if this fails, go with another member and speak with the errant follower, if all else fails treat the person as a Gentile or Tax Collector.
Now perhaps you have read this many times, perhaps you know where I am heading with this but I found that statement the most astonishing part of that passage. “If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
This is surely one of those times, when the bible truly baffles non believers and confuses those who follow on. It’s almost as if this passage is telling us to ‘excommunicate’ the errant member but look again. Gentiles and Tax Collectors – which disciple was it that was a tax collector?
So even the most errant or wayward Christian is to be included, more so they are to be loved. Indeed the evidence is there in Paul’s letter to the Church at Rome; 13:9 The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet"; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, "Love your neighbour as yourself." 13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. Kind of reminds you of the wedding verse from 1st Corinthians 13, love is the greatest gift of all!
I really like the passage of Romans and the way it correlates with that of Matthew’s Gospel. We often seek perfection in people, we are often ready to judge and serve as jury, but throughout the New Testament – we are being asked to take our human emotions and lay them aside, we are being asked to put on our Christian armour of light and leave the bad side of our nature where it belongs, ‘in darkness.’
It is hard at times to turn the other cheek, it is hard at times to forgive when there are injustices done against us, but then we are only human and it is only our human life that we mirror. We try hard to be like Christ, but there are times, situations and people that can bring our darkness to the surface and darkness covers our humanity, instead of Christ. The letter to the Romans is telling us along with Matthew’s Gospel to rise above these temptations and be at one with Christ.
I don’t know about you, but I for one find it quite difficult to do that all the time. I always cover myself with the codicil that the Lord says, “Love thy neighbour, but it doesn’t say anything about having to like them.” Strange that, but I do believe in that term. I find it possible to love people that I don’t like, now don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t care to socialise with them, bring them home to meet the family or have a meal with them, but as a Christian, I find it easy to look upon the most obnoxious and difficult individual or group of people and find love for them in my heart – but I still wouldn’t want to hang around with them.