Yesterday, I listed several reasons I am tempted to avoid the hard and sometimes uncomfortable work of developing deep, meaningful relationships with others within the body of Christ, particularly with those within my local church body. (Read yesterday's post HERE.)
I have thought of a few more reasons intimacy within the church is difficult...
These people offend me. Some are too self-righteous; others are not nearly righteous enough. Some are control freaks; others are way too passive. Some have their theology all wrong; others have their theology so precisely right that they can't afford to associate with anyone less enlightened. Some are way too smart for me - they think and talk completely over my head; others, well, they are just plain stupid. These people smile and pretend affection even as they dismiss me, provoke me, malign me, hurt me, and ignore my needs.
I offend them. Face it, relationship is difficult when you are always stepping on someone's toes or making someone suspicious, frustrated, or mad. I say too much, or I don't say enough. I wear my feelings on my sleeve, or I am not transparent enough about how I feel. One person is afraid that I will threaten his authority or make him look stupid; another needs me to set a stronger example. One fears I am becoming a raving modernist liberal; another thinks I just emerged from the Stone Age. These people, even when I have the best intentions of loving them, I offend them, provoke them, frighten them, hurt them, neglect them.
If intimate relationship is so fraught with complications, why even bother trying?!
Why? Because God saves people into and for community. There are no Lone Ranger Christians. If I am flying solo, you can bet my Christian life is pretty anemic.
Remember those National Geographic documentaries about animals in Africa that we watched on TV way back in the day? As a herd of gazelles stampeded across a grassy plain, I'd watch in fascinated terror knowing that eventually some poor gazelle would break away from the herd, veer to the side, lag behind...and I'd think, "Oh, no! Run back! Run faster!" That wandering gazelle inevitably ended up as dinner for a lion or cheetah.
Running solo is a good way to get eaten. It is not a good way to try to live the Christian life.
But, these people I have to live with, Lord...!
Let me ask you a question (I am asking myself the same question): Do you think this community into which you have been placed is an accident?
Is it possible that the sovereign, good, all-wise, all-knowing God of the universe accidentally put me into the wrong family? That He had another, better, more-like-me, easier-to-relate-to family in mind, but then He got mixed up and plugged me in with a bunch of irritating and easily-irritated yahoos by mistake?
Of course not.
I can pick my friends, but I don't get to pick my family. God picks my family.
It would behoove me to stop making excuses and to figure out just exactly how to begin loving the beautiful, broken messed up family that I am in.
* * *
"Aunty," Jem spoke up, "Atticus says you can choose your friends but you sho' can't choose your family, an' they're still kin to you no matter whether you acknowledge 'em or not, and it makes you look right silly when you don't." - Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird