I was in Costco, perusing the shelves while my tires were being rotated. I purposefully didn’t take a cart so that I wouldn’t buy anything, even though every aisle offered me something that I just felt I needed to have. However, that is a different story.
I soon found myself in the women’s clothing and there were two ladies from my church talking. I joined them in conversation which turned toward our outdoor church services. One said excitedly that she enjoyed being outdoors because we could sing. The other, brought up another local church that was holding full indoor services with singing despite our purple tier situation. Then she announced that if our church didn’t do the same, she was leaving, going to the other church, and wouldn’t be back until something changed.
The point of relating this story is not to discuss the two church policies, but my observation of my fellow churchgoer. The more she talked, the angrier she became, and I noticed one common thread in her discourse––the word “I.” Everything she related centered around what she wanted. She was leaving so that she could worship the way she wanted. Do what she wanted (which was probably why she was now holding her mask in her hand). She was not happy.
Happiness, or unhappiness, and self-centeredness seem to go hand-in-hand. In addition, one psychiatrist, Michael McGee, claims that “Being self-centered is costly.” It damages relationships and can even lead to health problems and a shorter life span.”
So what is the alternative?
Paul encourages us to “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).
Those “one another” phrases are the key, and they popped up again while I was listening to former Good Morning America Weekend anchor Paula Faris’s Journey’s of Faith podcast. Her latest guest was Max Lucado. Paula asked him that in light of these difficult and tumultuous times, “What do you think the role of the church is right now?”
Lucado’s answer? First, the church should do what the church does best: Point to Jesus. (A belief echoed by a pastor in my family as well.) Then, he reminded listeners that the New Testament was also written during a time of polarization. So he suggested that we look at what the Apostle Paul and Jesus would be telling us if they were living on earth today?
Lucado pointed out that there are approximately fifty-six (59 really) “one another” messages in the Bible, such as . . .
Love one another (John 13:34 plus 10 other references)
Through love, serve one another (Galatians 5:13)
Tolerate one another in love (Ephesians 4:2)
Serve one another (Galatians 5:13)
Bear one another’s burdens (Galations 6:2)
Give preference to one another (Romans 12:10)
Pray for one another (James 5:16)
And the list goes on.
He continued by asking, “What if our strategy became not to be perceived as the group that’s right, but to be perceived as the group that really cares about one another. That really put into practice the ‘one anothers.’ The commands of scripture. That we excelled at that?”
Good question … as it seems that anger and self-rightness and -righteousness just seems to be driving people apart.
As we move forward—as that is the only option we really have—perhaps we should adopt this new approach—“regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3)––which really isn’t new at all, but a staple of the Christian faith. And then practice all the one anothers.
Not only would we be more Christlike, but who knows, we might be happier as well.
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