On Sunday, we were talking about church. At church.
In our discussion, I was going to ask, “How many of you have bad experiences with church.” My guess is that most of the 20 or so people in the room would have raised their hands. And then I was going to say, “Me too.” And then I was going to ask us to list specific examples of good experiences with church.
I should clarify my language. I don’t mean good experiences in church: great concerts, wonderful sermons, fabulous potluck suppers. I mean moments when church, defined as people who are committed to loving God and loving each other, actually lived that.
It is easy to identify the problems with institutions, with organizations, with ourselves as members of organizations. When one of my friends says, “Love God, hate his fans,” I completely understand. I hate me too, sometimes.
But in a letter to a church, Paul says,
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Paul doesn’t indicate whether he means general concepts or specific actions. And often, we can take these words to mean vague feelings of truth and nobility. But what if we started to look for specific examples of people acting in admirable ways?
What if we looked for those moments where someone would not have had to act in a caring way, or could have stuck to their own agenda, or might have had reason to not forgive an action. And then, in that moment, that person said, “following Jesus means forgiving.”
What if we looked everywhere to collect those moments in the scrapbook of our heart?
Then, what if we did everything we could to cause them?
I’m curious. How would you have answered my question about specific examples of good?