The proverb from Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity” has impacted me in many ways. With three sons who teased, hit, loved and tormented each other, I would say to them ‘well, the Bible says a brother is born for adversity: trouble, misery, disaster…, but it doesn’t say whether the brother caused this or helped you work past it’.
When it comes to church, I am often stunned by some of the words people associate with church such as ‘safe’, ‘peaceful’, or even… ‘conflict free’. There isn’t any Bible passage that truly supports this idea. We, like my sons, actually NEED each other: not merely because we can support each other, pray for each other, and be there for each other in hard times, but also because… we are different. We need each other’s differences, those different gifts and different perspectives that soften our sharp edges, that grow our patience, that help us see the silent ones that would otherwise not be obvious, hidden in their own ‘caves’ of self-retreat. The real trick is to show up when those differences are feeling like more than a person wants to deal with, to be the love of Christ, when you’d rather… not be the love of Christ.
In this internet age, good worship, good teaching… things we’ve traditionally associated with the right reasons to come to church… these aren’t the best reasons, actually, and can be found elsewhere than inside the walls of a local church, so why go? 1 Corinthians 12: 4-27 is something I’d tuck deep in your heart, if I could, to be the healing balm next time you feel ‘rubbed’ by someone else in church, or are feeling too busy to go, or just don’t get ‘the point’ of going to church any longer…and it’s this idea that we all are SO different and the body, to be complete and fully functional, this Body of Christ, needs you to show up. Show up ESPECIALLY when you are feeling less than safe, show up ESPECIALLY when you are feeling less than peace. Seek out relationships and seek to understand that that person that bugs you might be the ‘nose’ whereas you might be a ‘big toe’ in the body. Ask questions and listen closely. Pray for each other. When you show up and I show up, we help bring together the unified body of Christ in all its diverse manifestations. It’s not about this idea that you might find conflict there. If you attend long enough and actually hold your own opinions, I promise you WILL have conflict, but far more importantly you will discover friends and brothers, people whose ‘wounds’ are faithful, like Proverbs 27:6 says. You will learn patience and forgiveness, things that are harder to practice and grow in outside of Christ. Your love will deepen, and its passion will shock and bless and amaze you, because that’s the overflowing goodness of God, more than we could have guessed, and able to help us ‘deal’. Finding the well-spring of this ‘blessed fountain’ is worth the pain. It’s the hallmark of maturing Christians.