Last week I related how I decided to bring up a forbidden topic with a person who, in certain circumstances, is intimidating to me.
I knew going into the conversation with Jim that I’d probably mess it up somehow.
Worse, however, was the idea of postponing the conversation yet again, which I’d been guilty of for a long time.
So I said to the Lord, “This isn’t going to be smooth. It might even be a train-wreck. Would you use me despite myself? I’m just the messenger here . . . “
Jim’s main objection to the topic of God was the hypocrisy of clergy and other church people who “raise cane” during the week, then act all holy on Sundays in church.
That’s what his mentor — who was the unquestionable authority, the Forbidden Subject — had taught him to think.
“Had you ever thought,” I responded, “that the church is actually a hospitable for sinners? We know we’re sinful. That’s why we’re there.”
I continued: “Sure, there are bad clergy out there. Maybe 3% (I don’t know, exactly). But why would you listen to them and ignore the other 97% who are good folks doing God’s work?
Why allow the 3% ‘bad apples’ to have so much say in your life? You’re letting them win!” I was getting a bit amped up. Maybe argumentative.
Jim said, “So you’re saying hypocrisy is OK in the church?”
“Not at all. I’m just saying the church is more for sinners than saints. We’re there because we know we need each other to improve our lives.”
My friend looked unconvinced.
I closed with this: “Jim, you can’t do this on your own. You need the teaching of the Scriptures and the encouragement of the people of God. There’s no lone-ranger spirituality out there, not according to Christianity at least.”
* * *
No big wins here that I could see. That’s how personal witness often goes. Through prayer and God’s guidance you try to say the right thing, but in my case it sometimes comes out sideways.
* * *
In Jim’s town one day I attended a Presbyterian church right near his house. I visited him soon after and told him I thought it was a good spot. “You should check it out sometime.”
To my surprise he said, “Maybe I will.”
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