I find myself still shocked by some of the events and conversations of last week, and others that are continuing this week. Every pastor, when coming to a different church, no matter what the circumstances, gets to enjoy a honeymoon period. Everyone is on good behavior, and we’re all hoping the best will happen. We look at one another with generosity and often hide some parts of ourselves and our thoughts for fear of being unloved if exposed. So, while honeymoons are great, real lasting love doesn’t begin to develop until the honeymoon is over.
The honeymoon is over here. Hurt feelings, disagreements, tensions, things that almost look like rudeness are surfacing now. That’s OK–this means a new level of openness and vulnerability is happening here. Again, a time for real love, not pretend love, to develop. So, I ask myself, why am I so shocked? I’m hardly new to church life. I know these things happen. What’s going on?
I keep returning to the purpose for the existence of the church. In the United Methodist Church, we say that we exist to “Make Disciples for Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.” That statement opens doors to multiple questions. First : What does it mean to be a disciple? Second, what on earth do we mean by the transformation of the world? Third, isn’t there anything here about being “saved?” Fourth, what about the people who come to church who have no interest in being a disciple of Jesus Christ, however we are going to define it?Church entry standards are very low. But Jesus’ requirements for being a disciple seem awfully high–like leaving everything behind and laying down our lives for one another. Or, to put it simply and scripturally, loving God fully and loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. I’m just not seeing the last one happen real well right now. And I know myself well enough to know that I have to start fixing this by looking very, very hard at myself.
We have such expectations of one another in the church. Expectations that we will really act according to the law of love, but mostly those expectations are laid on others while we assure ourselves that we always act from love. That, of course, is a load of baloney. Most of us fail to love ourselves well at all, so we look for others to do that for us, blind to the fact that the lack of healthy self-love means we absolutely cannot love anyone else in a way that brings any glory or holiness or honest connection in our relationships to each other.
More on this later, because I’m aware at this moment that my own lack of self-love is hindering my writing and thinking process. It’s time to take care of some important tasks that indicate real love.