I was reading What’s So Amazing About Grace? – a must read book by Philip Yancey. In the book, Tony Campolo is quoted, “While you were sleeping last night 45,000 kids died of starvation and malnutrition, and what’s worse is that you don’t give a sh**!”
Did Campolo’s statement catch you by surprise like it did me? I found it disturbing, but not because of the last word used in the sentence above, but because of the last sentence of the quote, “And what is worse is that you are more concerned that I said sh** than the 45,000 kids that died last night?”
I must admit when I first read Campolo’s quote the use of one word stood out to me more than the fact that 45,000 kids had died in one night. As a woman, I become frustrated with myself when I get so caught up in the minutiae of what was said or done as opposed to focusing on real issues that need to be addressed.
I do have to say that as I get older I think I am becoming less legalistic and self-focused, or at least I hope so. Things that use to bother me now seem trivial. Now when I become focused on the insignificant, I caution myself not to get so bent out of shape over something that does not really matter (of course, it helps having a husband and daughter that remind me to NOT take myself so seriously).
Unfortunately as a woman, who is a Christian, when I lose focus on what is important and focus on the insignificant I often look and sound like the stereotypical “church lady.” Have any of you ever been guilty of this?
Sadly, there is no better place to see the “church lady” in action than at church. Have you ever seen her…
- Become so focused on an issue that she belittles or gossips about individuals that disagree with her. Of course this raises the question of which is worse, the one who disagrees with her or her sharp tongue?
- Irritated when someone has the audacity to bring coffee or food into the church sanctuary. Yes, the sanctuary is a reverent place to worship God and perhaps bringing coffee/food in is not the best idea but really, wouldn’t you rather have someone feel welcomed than get a tongue lashing for such a faux pas?
- Sternly talk to someone else’s child (or an adult) for taking cookies from the food table at a church event before refreshments were ready to be served. Do you really want a child’s memory of church of being disciplined by a stern looking “church lady,” because the child did not wait for permission to have a cookie?
- Turn judgmental eyes on someone that comes dressed to church in clothes that she deems inappropriate. Is it more important to care about the person’s soul or the clothes that are worn?
- Stir up dissension because she believes that the songs being sung during worship have little value; whatever happened to the good ole hymns? Yes, many people love the hymns, but does that mean that God can only be worshipped one way?
- Observe a community member who starts visiting church, whose lifestyle outside of church precedes her. The “church lady” states to others her concern about such a sinner darkening the church door. Hmmmm, isn’t church suppose to be a refuge for sinners to find forgiveness and grace?
And the list could go on and on…with the focus on the insignificant versus the significant.
It is interesting how God brings different things in to our lives to teach us a lesson. A few weeks ago I attended a church in Liberia and was sitting toward the back on a rough sawn bench that was not level and felt like it could give away at any moment. Now imagine being a child sitting on such a bench with your legs dangling down unable to touch the floor. Even though you are a child, you are expected to sit still and pay close attention to the sermon. To instill perfection a “church lady” walks around the church tapping a switch on her palm. The child knows if s/he does anything that is considered inappropriate s/he will be a recipient of a swat or two from the “church lady’s” switch.
Frankly I was appalled by this and wondered how those children viewed the church. I also wondered if the “church lady” was more concerned about her self-imposed expectation of the children or the children’s well-being and souls? As God usually does when I point my finger at someone else, a small voice whispered in my mind, “But what about you, Vicki?” Which made me reflect on Campolo’s not so subtle point, “Am I more concerned about adherence to my self-important rules of right or wrong (including words that should or should not be used), or do I have the heart of Jesus, which compels me to focus on the real needs of those living in this fallen world?”
Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. Ephesians 5:1-2 (NLT)
What is a Think Through? It is an idiom that conveys the meaning of carefully considering possibilities and outcomes of a situation.
The question is simple today, what do you think about what I wrote? Do you agree or disagree? I would like to hear your thoughts. If you disagree with me, I promise not to act like a steroptypical “church lady.”