Last week, we talked about looking at our lives as if they were a quilt. This week, I want to explore what our church experiences would be like if they were quilts. It may sound a little nuts, but bear with me.
Do you ever hear yourself say, “I’m so tired of dealing with Sue or Mary or Jack. She just gets on my nerves. Why does he think he has to tell everyone what to do?” It may be another problem but fill in the blank with the name of the problem.
I’m not talking about church in the sense of simply attending a service on Sunday. I’m talking about church in the sense of being involved. The more involved you become, the more you get to know the inside of your church. The more you get to know the true side of a lot of people too.
It is so interesting. As you get more involved in a church, you start to get to know people and make friends and start becoming close with people, especially as you start working with them. But as time goes by, we get more familiar with each other. Our irritations can often get on each others’ nerves. We start seeing things that we once thought were charming that are now irritating.
What has happened? I thought we were all Christians.
Being a Christian is supposed to change the way we relate to each other, isn’t it? Aren’t we all supposed to get along and even love each other?
So why is it so hard? Here are some reasons.
- We are naturally human and self-centered. We experience the truth of the gospel in glimmers. But there is plenty of our “old nature” that remains.
- We forget that the truth of the gospel is shown powerfully in our relationships, especially among Christians. Have we learned how to love and accept our brothers and sisters in Christ? Then we don’t really love God. That is what John says in I John. The way we love each other shows the world how much we love God, the one we haven’t seen. Our brothers and sisters in Christ are the only little christs we can see…imperfect as they are.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
No one has ever seen God;
if we love one another,
God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar;
for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother (or sister).
I John 4:11-12, 20-21 ESV
3. Our difficulty loving other Christians shows us how much we need Jesus, not only to love other Christians, but to love our spouses, our children, and all the other people in our lives that are hard to love at times.
What does this have to do with quilting?
How often do you look at a quilt and and enjoy its beauty? What if the pieces of the quilt said to the Designer, “No, I don’t want you to put me next to that piece on the the quilt!” It sounds preposterous. But often that is what we say, or think. There are people we don’t want to be with. We don’t mind seeing them from a distance, maybe even smiling at them as we pass in the hall. Just please, don’t ask us to work with them! It is too much. They are obnoxious and irritating.
We forget we will probably be with them for eternity. Granted, they will be perfect then, but so will we. We aren’t now.
We sometimes think they need us to grow. But what if we need them to grow in new areas? Have you ever thought of that? I think back over the years to the many difficult people God placed in my life. (And not all were.) But of those who were difficult, God used many of them to correct me in ways I needed it. I didn’t enjoy their style of course, but I had to look at what they had to say, harsh as it was, and ask God to show me the truth that was there. He did. He also brought along some beautiful, loving people as well. I learned from them too.
What if the Designer only put fabric in the quilt that was beautiful and only beautiful colors? It wouldn’t be as beautiful a quilt. Often quilt guilds have ugly fabric challenges to challenge quilters to build a quilt with some ugly pieces of fabric or ugly colors. It is amazing the beautiful quilts that come from those challenges. Not every single piece of fabric has to be stunning. It is the Designer who must know how to put them together so the quilt itself is beautiful. That is what He is doing in your church and in the Church Universal.
What is God doing in your local church? It is doubtful that even you know. It is certain that He is working on many levels.
Before you decide to walk away from the church you are serving because… (fill in the blank). Think about the true why’s of why you are leaving. Yes, they are often couched in theologically sounding phrases that sound good.
But are those the real reasons why you are leaving? Or are you getting irritated with people in leadership for their flaws (no I’m to talking about serious sin!). I’m talking about issues of style, maybe even priorities. Maybe their priorities aren’t your priorities. Have you talked to the pastor or leadership with your concerns? Are you praying for them? Often, frank conversations can open your eyes to why they have the priorities they do or what is going on that you don’t understand.
Going to a new church is always nice. You start with a blank slate. But do you know what? If you get involved, as you should, you find that no matter where you are, people are the same. You get back in the same ruts of interactions. You get irritated and the cycle continues. Now is the time to learn to love other Christians. Learn to work with them. Learn to forgive them as well as learn to be forgiven.
Change Point: Think about where you are in terms of getting along with and loving other Christians. Are you able to discuss with them openly when you have a disagreement? Are you able to accept correction from them graciously? Well, even to consider that what they have to say has truth to it? If you have had a pattern of leaving churches when you got tired of the people for a variety of stated reasons, think back to what the real reasons were. Did the changes result in growth for you and your family?
Writing down your thoughts on the Change point will be helpful as you think about issues that arise from those questions.