Stories from Orange: things that divide

Although I only got to see Dan for about 4.3 minutes this morning, he was bursting with stories to tell me about people and interactions he’s had so far at the Orange Conference.

One story that he started to tell was about one of his friends (I’ll call him “Joe”) who has been through a bit of a rough patch lately. One of the thorns in that rough patch being his employer: the church.

Joe’s church runs a Christian school, but Joe’s children attend public school. The senior pastor decided he wanted all church employee’s kids to attend the church’s Christian school.

Joe and his wife had already decided that the best thing for their kids in the coming school year would be to do a mix of classical education via the public school combined with homeschool. Joe communicated this decision to the pastor and told him that if the church forced the Christian school enrollment issue, Joe would have to resign. The pastor reneged, and said he was uncomfortable with but had to respect Joe’s family’s decision.

This story immediately took me back to high school. After my freshman year, we moved from New Jersey to Colorado, where I attended a Baptist church on Sunday and a charismatic high school Mon-Fri.

Although I was easily in the top 10 percent of my class for academics, was involved in extracurriculars and leadership at the school, I was not inducted into the school’s honor society. When I met with the principal of the school to ask why I had not been included in the honor society, he told me it was because I did not speak in tongues.

I totally I feel for Joe and his wife. I groan because I know what it’s like to live a life that doesn’t fit into the “rules” or “policies” someone else has set, and having to suffering the fallout from them. I understand. I hurt. I’ve been there. And I hate it when we do stuff like this to each other in the body of believers. And I say “we” because I’m a rule-maker  too. I love policies and procedures and for everyone to fall in line and stuff themselves into neat, little boxes.

But I’m learning more and more that Jesus came and blew it up for people like me who like making up rules. He took all the laws and policies that people were making and shocked us all by doing the exact opposite. Instead of creating his own playbook, he took away the regulations and made a level playing field for everyone. In an unexpected and completely genius move, He changed the game and set everyone up to be successful just as they were instead of laying trip wires to keep people in line.

I recently studied Ephesians, and I’m realizing for the first time just how important the “we’re all on the same team” mentality of Ephesians 2:11-22  is in this game of life. When we engage in petty arguments, quibble and quarrel–just like they did in Paul’s time–we’re actually generating fodder for Satan to use against us to trip us up, frustrate us, divide us and take our energy and focus off the prize of living our lives all to the glory of God.

As I listened to Joe’s story, I empathized, then I immediately prayed for Joe and his wife and the pastor in this situation. That they’d see past the petty in order to focus on the greater call of God’s kingdom.

Are there things in your past or present that could be considered petty quarrels and quibbles that are distracting your focus from God or compromising your/the Church’s testimony? What have you learned? What will you do differently when the next “challenge” comes?

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