If any of you managed to scroll down to the bottom of yesterday's post for the mini message (as Monkey Butt did) and glommed as she did onto the line, ""I'm right, and I don't have to say it to be right" ( as expressing my lack of a servant's heart), you might be saying, "Chris must mean that "servant's heart= always acting as if you're wrong." And sometimes I get mad at God because I equate the two myself. But this morning, a funny thing happened as I listened to James McDonald.
He described my old church.
Well, it wasn't his point to do so, nor was it an exact picture. But he was speaking on conflict, and factions, and brought up his background as "being brought up a fundamentalist." Now to me, fundamentalism was believing the Bible as the total, inerrant Word Of God. Period. But to him, there was more to it... and it was very similar to the church I became an active Christian in.
He said that fundamentalism added to the Bible a bunch of rules and restrictions that had nothing to do with Scripture- "No music, no dancing, no drinking, no movies"- or as he described it simply, "no FUN, too much DAMN, and not enough MENTAL." My old church wasn't all like that, but... I know wedding receptions to be held there couldn't have secular music or dancing, my old life at the bar would have been frowned upon, and the thing that made my blood boil. That was when two pillars of that church, a man and a woman, both lost their spouses within months of each other. Now mind you they were old enough that even if he found his, he might never have found hers. But the man, a well-respected deacon, told me, "I've wanted to go over and visit (her), but I didn't want people to talk." You had to keep the other sex at such arms length that two lonely old people couldn't feel comfortable going to visit one another. GGRRRRRRR!
Now I won't say that that was the attitude of any ONE person, but it was accepted as "what you do" as a member of the church. Add to that that the Pastor, a good man who I really miss, not only upheld this thought process, but had the additional problem (IMHO) of taking the whole "women being submissive to men" thing a bit too far. I think that may have been because he had both a submissive wife and a (usually) submissive mother and never learned to deal with women who stood up on their hind feet to him. It certainly harmed his counseling efforts with couples, from what I could see.
He was also a bit shorthanded in the good men willing to help division (small church), so he was always scouting talent for the Lord. He decided that I, as a single man, was a good candidate, and first asked me to teach the teen Sunday School. Not my cup of tea, I thought, but God led me to try it, and He blessed it phenominally. Then he asked me to be a deacon. I told him I was not comfortable with the idea, that my interpretation of the stricture "husband of one wife" meant not only "don't have two wives" but "you NEED a wife to support you in this job." I prayed about it, and never got a sense of it being a good idea. But he kept after me, and I finally said, "Only if you have the elders examine me like the Bible says." He agreed, but rushed me through, and when I asked about the exam, he told me "they'd all just agreed on it."
Faith lesson one: If God doesn't say "DO IT", don't do it.
McDonald went on to describe what he called "secondary separation". Basically, fundamentalists have an attitude (to him) of "I like you- but you like this person, which I don't agree with. Therefore, I cannot be with you." And that's where Laurie came into play.
She had found Christ in a church where there was a group she was comfortable with. This is the kind of thing important to both of us, as neither of us are what you would remotely term outgoing. But as her group moved on, she felt kinda left out, and was churchless when we started hanging out. I was slowly trying to get her comfortable with my church, and was making good progress, when "secondary separation" set in. The Pastor said that I was spending too much time with her (actually, he said, "You spend more time with her that I spend with my wife!" To which I naturally answered, "Is that a condemnation of me, or you?") and would have to step down from my posts. I said "Fine," which I think surprised him, because then he asked me to keep teaching the Sunday School for the time being.
I won't go through all the heartache that followed, but in short order, I lost teaching the Sunday School, I wasn't even allowed to lead the adult class, I couldn't lead prayers (despite the fact that just weeks ago I had led prayers at his father's funeral), couldn't even go up and help collect the offering. After months of accepting all this as God's humbling of me, I finally was told I couldn't have a part in a father's day thing the next week (not to my face right then and there, but five days later after he left for a day trip), and I called last straw.
At this point, McDonald goes on to the concept that their are fixers and avoiders in every church. For example, when Paul had the problem with John Mark. He wanted to avoid the problem, leaving the boy at home, while Barnabas wanted to "fix it", and take him along. At length, they decide on a "temporary separation" to solve their conflict- Paul would go on with Silas, while Barnabas would take Mark with him on his own trip. And despite the old saying about not letting the sun set on wrath, sometimes you just have to back off and give the sides time to think about it.
Lesson number two: Somethings you can fix on the spot with duck tape. Others- especially personal things like broken bones and hearts- you have to let time heal.
And the over all lesson today- a servant's heart is a good thing. It does involve patience, humility, and a willingness to not always be right. But sometimes right is right... and it's time to move on. I've carried a good deal of guilt about how things went down at my old church, and there was a lot to be guilty for on my part. But this morning's message taught me one thing- it would have come down to it sooner or later. Eventually, whether on the subject it came up on or something else we hadn't gotten to yet, the extra rules and I would have come to a Rubicon. There is a time to say, "I'm right," and act on that, and that is also part of that servant's heart.