Unfairness

1 05 2013

I love that the Bible is willing to say what we are thinking. The book of Ecclesiastes does a great job of capturing a common frustration.
Chapter 9 verse11:
“I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.”

This verse is a stinging reality. A great person loses their job while an incompetent person is promoted. A phenomenal singer never gets their big break while a mediocre singer becomes a star. As I was thinking of a third example, it was humbling because many of the struggles I could mention would be painful to others.

Life is not fair. I struggle in those moments and try to figure out what I did wrong. Maybe I didn’t pray hard enough or there something I should have done differently. Of course, I know I am reading too much into it but sometimes there was something I could have done differently making the waters muddy. It can be very frustrating and can drive me crazy if I let it.

Here is the interesting part. The Bible does not try to answer why these things happen. Instead it just lays out the picture and lets us see reality. Acts 12 captures this. The beginning of the chapter starts with the Apostle James being killed and Peter being arrested with it being clear he would face the same fate. The church prays and Peter is miraculously released from prison. Did the church not pray for James? Were they suppose to do more? Could James have been saved? The Bible is silent. It just tells us that James was killed and Peter was saved.

This is when our faith is stretched to its limits. Those of us who have been around the block can quote Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” The question is, when we are alone and truly honest with ourselves, do we believe it?

I keep coming back to yes.

It is not because things always work out for me. It is because when I look at the world without God, there is harshness and a lack of depth that I reject. When I look to God, I find a depth of love and peace that grounds me and a hope that sustains me. The result of an unfair world is my focus is sharpened, my relationships become deeper and I become stronger. In other words, God and I get the last laugh.

We all know someone who is facing a frustrating and unfair situation. Would you take some time to pray for them? Yes, we should always pray for a miraculous intervention like Peter received. We should also pray for God’s love and peace to shine through and for the person to grow and mature remembering “time and chance” will be overcome by love and eternity.





When the Church gets it right

9 02 2012

Have you ever been reading and something leaps out at you?  It is like biting into what you think is a regular brownie and finding out it has a dark chocolate filling.  (Feel free to substitute your favorite filling…and you can also change the brownie to your favorite sweet.  I promise it is all zero calories.)  This happened to me when I read the final sentence in a story at the beginning of Act 6.  It is the story about selecting leaders in the church.  It is a great story at a lot of levels.  What I love is shows just how amazing the church can be when we get it right.  It invites all of us to consider the possibility of the church living up to its fullest potential.

The story begins in Acts 6:1 with the church experiencing conflict.  It is a great reminder that anytime people are involved there will be conflict.  I love the sign one of my professors hung outside his church.  It said, “No perfect people allowed.”  God was not naïve when he established the church.  Conflict and misunderstanding do not surprise God.  Instead of saying we should ignore problems or run away from them, God expects us to face them and deal with them in a gracious and respectful manner.  That is what we see in this story.  To be honest, I have seen what I call “nice disease” in too many of our churches.  This is where we are all really “nice” to each other and ignore problems.  (The other extreme is where we pick on everyone else because we are the ones who “have it right” which gives us an excuse to walk away from the church.)    Bottom line: the church is full of humans.  The story in Acts shows us how to be human and be the community God calls us to be.

The last line of the story says, “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:7)

I want to focus on the “large number of priests.”  This is a very significant statement and what leaped out at me.  We have to take a step back and remember the early church saw Jesus as the promised Messiah for the Nation of Israel.  There would have been an expectation that the things established in the Old Testament would continue only they would continue through Jesus.  This is why you see the early church going to the Temple and worshiping there.

One of the Old Testament requirements was the expectation of the community to take care of widows.  God was both direct and specific about making sure those in need were supported.  What was the conflict in Acts 6?  They ran into a problem caring for the widows.  They managed the problem well and those in need were provided for.  For the priest this would have been inspiring.  They saw a community doing what they were suppose to be doing; taking care of each other.  Because the larger Jewish community was made up of humans, they would have experienced firsthand the frustrations of selfishness and a lack of concern for those in need.  All communities have people in need and because communities are made up of humans there are various degrees of success in dealing with the problem.  The church stood out.  They got it right.  The priests were naturally drawn to them.  They wanted to be a part of a community that really “got it” and took care of each other.

Once again it looks like Jesus was right.  He said, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35).  The priests saw the love they had for one another.  It was a love that did not ignore problems and try to be “nice” or blame everyone else.  It was a love that let them deal with conflict with a focus on the best interests of the community.

How do we apply this?  We have to accept that churches are made up of imperfect humans and that there will be problems and issues.  We need to deal with those problems effectively and in a healthy manner.  When we do, the church is able to live up to its full potential.  Jesus established the church to be a tangible presence of his love on earth.  When the church gets it right, we make a phenomenal impact.  We care for those in need.  We are voice to those who need a voice.  We are not limited by geographic boarders or political parties.  We are motivated by the best interest of the people around us.  Everything flows from loving God and loving the people around us.  When we get it right, it is pretty amazing.

Please get plugged into a healthy church.  I will warn you now that it will not be perfect.  (That is a good thing otherwise I wouldn’t be able to attend.)  You will have to deal with conflict from time to time.  However, if it is a healthy church, it will deal with those issues and turn around and meet the needs of the people around it.  You will be a part of a community living up to its fullest potential.  Trust me, it will be worth it.