I don’t remember where I heard this analogy – it was a long time ago – but it went something like this:
Imagine you see a man sitting in a chair and repeatedly slapping his own face. You’d think he’s mad, wouldn’t you? But bearing in mind that we are one body… don’t we sometimes exhibit something of that kind of madness? Don’t you sometimes see a hand hitting a face, a foot kicking a stomach – how easily we forget to love one another, when we look at some other denomination/congregation/movement within the church/people of a certain generation/people of a certain disposition/etc and we mock them because they don’t do things our way, the way we believe is doctrinally sound, or the way we believe is cool, or the way we believe is going to bring more people in… We mock, instead of taking time to actually get to know them and find out why they’re doing things the way they do – what is the value they see in their way of being church.
Mocking instead of engaging in dialogue means we are:
- letting God down by not living up to Jesus’ command to love one another
- hurting the feelings of fellow believers
- missing out on all we could learn from those who do things differently – we might actually discover something that’s helpful to us! but we’re often too arrogant to listen.
I know I’ve done this myself. I remember very well the time when I was feeling so proud of being part of the “cool” gang, I felt we were the ones who had “got it” and I looked in disdain on those who were “lagging behind”. I think I’ve grown up a bit since then. I’ve learned that things aren’t anywhere near as clear-cut as we humans like to think, and that each person has a different journey, that whilst I may have already learned X and they haven’t, they’ve probably already learned Y whilst I haven’t even twigged that there is a Y. I’ve started to discover that different things might be helpful for different people, and so just because a particular style of worship doesn’t work for me, that’s not a good enough reason to write it off. And through talking to people on the internet – a great way of having dialogue with people who are not in the same church as me/not in the same stream of Christianity/etc – I can see the value of actually listening and hearing how things look from where they’re looking, and what value they find in customs that are alien to me.
There is no denomination/congregation/movement that has got it all sussed. We’re all fallen human beings hobbling along and letting God down and trusting in his grace. And we know, in theory, that pride is a sin, and that we have nothing to be proud of. And we know, in theory, that we are called to love one another. How about we try put the theory into practice a bit more? If there’s one thing that I believe is guaranteed to draw more people in [and I mean into the church as a whole – which is, after all, what matters, right?], it’s obedience to Jesus’ command: love one another.