Romans 12:10b “Outdo one another in showing honor.”
As I try to get this next book written on deadline, I’m reading a number of studies on relationships. The one I read last night was looking at platonic, same-sex friendships and whether a sense of competition was helpful or hurtful in those relationships. In this particular study, the authors categorized the kinds of competition participants were asked about into things like physical attractiveness, academic achievement, play, social skills, and so forth. These authors found that competition between friends was hurtful to those relationships in every category but one. The one place where we can safely compete with our friends? Altruism. When we challenge our friends to see which of us can help the most people, everybody wins and the friendships flourish. I made a note in the margin… “Outdo one another in showing honor.”
Also in the last 24 hours I had two conversations that showed we were not practicing this directive of Paul in our churches. One conversation was with a pastor who has been serving a church only about three years. I asked him how it was going. He recited the all-too-common litany of building and parking issues and then noted one person in the congregation who, almost weekly, reminded him that she hated the version of Scripture that he read from on Sunday mornings. She preferred a different translation. I said to my friend, “Yup, number 514 on my list of why I don’t miss parish ministry!”
The other conversation was with a 19-year-old United Methodist in Illinois. We are guild-mates in World of Warcraft and as the only two from our guild playing yesterday morning, we got to chatting about religion and churches as we went about saving Azeroth from various hell-spawn. She indicated that she was leaving her church for another in a different denomination. I asked her why and she said that the people in her current church were always griping and complaining. She felt they had lost the focus of what the church was supposed to be about. How I wished I could have responded that I had never been in such a church!
So this is simply meant as a reminder. Whether you seek to retain your pastor or the youth in your congregation, quit with the whining, back-stabbing, and competing for whose style of worship or bean casserole is better than whose. If the pastor has run off with either the secretary or the offering, you will need to speak up. But if you don’t like the hymns or the color of the new carpet or the way communion is served, you will have to decide whether having it your way is worth the toll it will take on the pastor who has committed his or her life to serving all of God’s children. And if you find yourself at odds with others in the congregation over positions of power or crumbs on the carpet or whether the person who signed up for flowers followed through, just stop and think about the 19-year-old who will leave you congregation for someplace that is more Christ-focused.
Whether we’re reading Rick Warren or seeing a therapist, we are reminded of the truth: “It’s not about you.” It’s not about me either. It’s about Jesus and the God to which he unfailingly points. Worship of that God does not consist in competing with each other to show who is the best or even the most holy. It is about falling all over each other in love and admiration for the unique gifts that God has given them and the vital role in the Body of Christ that they serve.
Teach us, Lord, to be better at giving honor than giving headaches. Amen.
The new Massachusetts Bible Society website is now live. Visit us at www.massbible.org and click on a building to enter the site. Enjoy!
SpiritWalkers is available in audio as a podcast. Visit www.annerobertson.com/poddevotions.html to subscribe or to listen online.
Be sure to check out my books: Blowing the Lid Off the God-Box and God’s Top 10: Blowing the Lid Off the Commandments. Order now on Amazon.com or check local bookstores.