Duking it out… in the house of the Lord

mean-kid

Some days, going to church feels a stroll though Mr. Roger’s neighborhood. Everyone laughing and loving. Singing praise songs. Sharing stories of how God answered prayer. Going out for lunch en mass on a Sunday afternoon. Any minute I expect Barney waddle into the scene singing “ I love you, You love me. We’re a happy family..”

And then, it happens.

Maybe it’s the purple dinosaur’s annoying voice.  More likely, somebody feels threatened. Intimidated. Downsized from what they thought they should be. The community of believers suddenly takes on the characteristics of a Twilight movie set. Relationships cool. Fangs start to show.

Does comparing church conflicts to a teen flick about vampires seem a bit of a stretch?  When everyone focuses on survival and no one dares to reach out in sacrificial love, it is not that much of a stretch.

Take the Christians in Southern Galatia, a Roman province in what is now Turkey. Their meetings of sweet fellowship turned ugly real quick. Chomping on relationships, chewing up reputations and spiting them out.

“If you keep on biting and devouring each other,” one of the apostles admonished them in a letter, “watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”

I remember a few church meetings with similar overtones. One was an annual general meeting so traumatic I’ve avoided them as much as possible ever since. It happened in the nineteen sixties when churches rocked with racial tension. At the annual general meeting I had a front row seat to emotions collided and exploded. Grown men cried and screamed and yelled at each other over the difference in the color of another Christian’s skin. Spiritual brothers created to worship side by side.

No one noticed my pinched face and wide eyes, but I felt the impact of every word.

There will times when godly men and women disagree, when one brother rebukes another. There will be hard times. Bu,t we once we get through we can gain a greater understanding of what it means to be a part of the body of Christ.

If give into our insecurities and focus on our own agenda, all hell breaks loose. We get defensive. Strike out. Draw blood. Friendships rip apart. Churches split. Some people never recover. Often it’s the children who lose the most. Their spiritual innocence. Their simple faith. Their hope in Jesus.

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