Sometimes as Church we are all to neat and tidy, polite and ve don’t mention anything controversial, messy, offensive and are perfectly well mannered and inoffensive.
Church if it were a colour would be baige, and if it were a biscuit would be rich tea!
I worry that Church as institution makes “not rocking the boat” a vitue (although my spell check suggest virtue should be replaced by virus!) as is this idea of “keeping the show on the road”, again seen as a virtue -rather than asking “Is this ‘show’ roadworthy?”
Recently I read of a brave follower of Christ and church leader challenging his congregations sinful and unchristlike behaviour and is now on a forced sabbatical.
Yet do think that on occasions Churches need a rebuke and a challenge, one of the roles of a Church leader is a custodian of the culture and to call the Church to act as they should. This is clearly modelled by Jesus who rebuked his “right hand man” with “Get behind me Satan”, who called the monarch (Herod) a fox, and the powerful religious elite a “nest of vipers” and “white washed tombs” and drove the traders from the temple with force.
Paul’s “Pastoral Epistles’ are straight talking, uncomfortable reading and deeply challenging, and if sent out now would probably get some traditional church goers and odd bishop rather hot under the (dog) collar.
Yet, it might not be popular but the call and the footsteps of Christ has not been a call to ‘people please’, but to be a radically different community, a Church that should be a foretaste and outpost of heaven, but sometimes tragically resembles the other place!
I see nothing Christ-like in condoning and colluding with the bad behaviour that sadly exists within some Churches.
What our Churches, and as Christians, do/behave really matters.
We as Christians and the Church gathered locally are the shop window to the community around us. We are Christs ambassadors, he makes his appeal through us.
How we live can bring glory or shame to the name of Christ.
This brave man of God showed a more “light and salty” path, he could have turned a blind eye, not rocked the boat and gone through ministry motions, but no, he called behaviour that was “off side” off side (which sadly happens too often across too many Churches, and probably is responsible for repelling many seekers from Christ).
He should be commended not punished.
I have tragically seen and know many people who know and love Christ but because of their Church experience are no long in active fellowship.
I’m not advcating bullying or abusive behaviour, but I don’t thing there is anything Christlike about biting our tongue when we should be speaking up.
A wise friend who had been battered by some toxic church politics and stood up to them also said that he didn’t want sink to their level.
Sadly in the complex nature of human interaction hurt people end up hurting people, sin can and does become cyclical, cycles which need to be broken and new ways of living, loving and serving together needs to be found.
I had difficult parish in Kingswood, and some challenging relationships to manage. I am not naturally a lover of conflict, in fact I actively dislike conflict. Nor am I saying I always handled it as well as I could have. Yet in the words of Catherine Booth “to change the future you have to disturb the present”.
As Desmond Tutu said that “if you remain silent in the face of sin and justice, then you have sided with the oppressor”.
Jesus never sided with the oppressor, nor turned a blind eye to wrong doing and sinful behaviour.
Light drives back darkness and salt -killing bacteria- can sting, but we are called to be salt and light in our communities, a call to live different, being that “City without walls blazing with the glory of God” a “City on a hill that cannot be hidden”, being the hands a feet of Christ.
On one occasion dealing with one of our more difficult congregational members I was told “leave him he’s not worth it!” and that “people like him wont chsnge”.
Yet Jesus never said anyone wasnt worth it, even washing Judas feet.
The gospel says that even the most unlikely people seeped in sin can change, whether that is the sinfulness of spiteful and toxic church politics or rampant debuchary!
Sadly in one of our Churches in Kingswood my wife and little girl stopped going to one of the 5 Churches because it became the kind of environment we didn’t want our little girl exposed too.
Our Church leaders talk a lot about growth, but surely we need instead to talk about health, being a Christ like community.
Healthy things grow, unhealthy things die, we need to nurture communities that reflect and are full of the Holy Spirit embodying and replicatimg the DNA of Jesus.
A call to follow Jesus and turn from our sin is at the heart of gospel. If the people of our congregations, refuse to listen and respond to the call of Christ to be changed and transformed, then perhaps we need to knock the dust from our feet? Something painful, but actually biblical.
To deal openly, honestly and courageously to see us all become transformed into the likeness of Christ is at the heart of being a Christian. Iron sharpening iron as one person sharpens another. Carrying one anothers burdens. Spuring one another on towards love and good deeds.
The call is to love, even to love those who persecute us, and sometimes it can really feel like persecution, and although love forgives and turns the other cheek, it calls us to the tougher and braver path, not of looking the other way or shrugging our shoulders and saying “that’s just how some people are” but bravely try and build a different community that acts different and is a beacon of hope both to those in the Church -another way is possible- and to those who don’t yet belong, to show them what a Christian community should be.
A Christian community reflecting Christ will need to be defended, Satan will attack it, but let’s not give up trying like Nehemiah in the face of the onslaught from Sabbalats and Tobiahs continuing to build (and rebuild) or the glory of God.
Yes, we will rebuke out of love, as we seek to see God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.