A couple of weeks ago, the editor of a church bulletin that we receive quoted (and attributed to me) a couple of lines from an article I had written for the bulletin of the church I attend … but only a couple of lines.
Long-time or overly-thorough readers of my blog would have recognized it as a better-organized rewrite of one of my posts here.
Since it was only the first couple of lines of the paragraph, he used that partial quote to say that my position was “oppositional” to God’s word; implying that I did not value what God wanted in worship.
This brother and I disagree on many things, but the importance of what God wants in worship is not one of them.
I felt maligned, and after waiting a day or so to cool down and meditate and pray on the matter, I wrote him a private letter on plain white paper sent in a plain white envelope, which said (in part, so that no identity is disclosed herein):
Dear ________ ,
I couldn’t help but note that you quoted me in your bulletin article in the series on the contextual study of John 4:
“Some ways that you worship God are probably really different than some ways I do. A few of mine wouldn’t make sense to you or ‘speak’ to you at all; and vice-versa. My guess is that I don’t have a right to require you to adopt mine any more than you should expect me to adopt yours.”
But the quote stopped there, and did not include the next lines:
“The final arbiter on any given point would be God, wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t pleasing Him be the goal? Wouldn’t it please Him for me to feed you by participating in the ways that nourish your spirit, and for you to reciprocate for my hunger? Could that be why He calls us to dine together in the first place?”
So it appears that what I wrote was “oppositional” to what God wants; pointing out only the social aspect of our corporate worship at the expense of God’s will.
If there were truly something that you have against me and/or what I have written, I would have preferred the courtesy of being approached privately before the matter went public, as Jesus advises in Matthew 18:15-20. (I hope I am following the spirit of that instruction in this letter – at 2:08 a.m., I am also trying to resolve this in my heart before worshiping with my church family later this morning.) I am a reasonable person and would have been glad to try to illuminate any misunderstanding you might have had.
What I wrote, I had hoped my church family would read in light of the golden rule applied even in our worship together, as well as Paul’s observation that “love does not insist on its own way.”
Doubtless we see many things differently, you and I, but I do try to be fair and portray both the love and righteousness of God in what I write; His justice and His mercy.
We are all creatures gifted with different tastes, you see; even in what speaks to us in worship. I frequently kneel when I pray, because it speaks powerfully to me of the servant relationship I should have with my Master and King when I worship and petition in prayer. I would not dream of requiring it for everyone, because scripture does not. However, it does often exemplify it as a natural reaction of people who – sometimes suddenly – recognize the majesty of the Almighty.
His power and sovereignty humble me.
They force me to be honest about the possibility that yet someone else may have supplied you with that partial quote and may have been less than honest with you about its context.
So I hope that, if that is the case, you will pray for that person and his/her intentions, just as I pray for you and your congregation – and I sincerely hope that you will pray for me and be forgiving if I have done, said or written something to have prompted this friction. If I have, and have become callous enough that I cannot call it to mind, I am truly sorry.
I don’t know if I handled the situation well or even correctly. I did pray for the fellow that night, and it gave me peace to be able to worship the next morning with my church family.
If you have read both my article and his, I just wanted you to know that his words did not escape my attention, nor did I choose to do the convenient thing and ignore them. If not, I regret having wasted a few moments of your time with this post.
I respect a zeal for God’s word and God’s house. I believe that Jesus had such, and that it consumed Him. I like to believe that I have a good measure of it, too – but that I also have a good measure of love for God’s children, too. And that they are supposed to balance each other.
I have no respect for reading into anyone’s words a meaning and agenda that are not expressly there, and portraying them as such by conveniently omitting the controverting evidence when quoting. I hope that was not the intent. I hope it was an honest mistake; a quick scan rather than a thorough reading, or a torn page, or poor wording on my part that was easily misunderstood.
But I have received no reply to my letter.