There’s a restaurant in Moncton that I just love. I eat there quite often. The food is great, the servers are friendly, and the prices are reasonable. What more could one ask for in a restaurant? I enjoy going there because I can always count on a great experience. Except, that is, for the last time I went….
It was one of those experiences where nothing went right. I picked the wrong time to go and had to wait about twenty minutes for a seat. I then had to wait another ten minutes for a server to notice me. And when she did see me she practically threw a menu at me. I waited another ten minutes for a drink, five more to get my order taken, and then another twenty-five to get served (I timed it!). After all this, when my meal finally arrived it was the wrong order. I then had to wait some more time for the correct order and even then it was cold. And on and on it went. It was just a terrible experience from top to bottom.
By the time I left I was fuming. I went home and got on a rant saying that that poor excuse for a restaurant had gotten the last dollar it was ever going to get from me, that I was going to tell all my friends to steer clear of that restaurant, that it was the worst place any human being had ever eaten at, and on and on.
Now, let’s pause for a moment and summarize all this, shall we? I said I love that restaurant… I eat there all the time… the food is great… the servers are friendly… the prices are reasonable… except for one time. And I was going to let that one experience spoil what had always been a wonderful dining experience. How stupid is that!
Yet, isn’t that what Christians often do? We worship in a church that has been our home for years. We’ve been inspired by the music, fed by the sermons, challenged and encouraged in our small groups, and prayed for in times of grief and distress. The church has been our home, our sanctuary, our refuge.
And, then, something happens. You’re in the hospital for a couple of weeks and no one visits you…. Someone says something that offends you…. You disagree with something the pastor said from the pulpit…. The youth pastor planned an event that you felt was inappropriate…. The leadership board made a decision you didn’t like. And like me with my favourite restaurant you’re ready to throw it all in and be done with the church.
Let’s face it—the church is an imperfect institution comprised of imperfect people. And because people in churches are imperfect (pastors included), from time to time they will do or say things that are hurtful, offensive, or simply thoughtless. If you attend a church long enough, you will get hurt or offended. Note I didn’t write may; I wrote will. You will get hurt; you will get offended; you will become disappointed. That’s inevitable. It will happen. Where you have a choice is in how you choose to respond in those situations. You can respond with anger, with bitterness, with resentment—or you can respond with gentleness and forgiveness. The choice is yours.
Before you decide, however, remember what the Church is and what she means to you. In spite of all her failings, the Church is still the Body of Christ… the hope of the world… God’s chosen instrument for reaching the world with the love of Christ. The Church is still “the last best hope for humanity.” Isn’t that worth a little forgiveness?
Now, let’s go out for lunch. I can recommend a great restaurant!