Are you willing to disagree?
A few days ago, I wrote about a prayer breakfast I attended to support our local pregnancy center. At that breakfast, a man representing a local church had a moment to share a story before he closed the event with prayer. It’s worth sharing here.
He daily attended mass, and that morning, the homily was given by “the “liberal priest.” By liberal, he meant one who wasn’t as anti-abortion as this gentleman. The essence of the homily spoke about justice for women, whose lives had to be considered as well as the unborn.
The gentleman at our breakfast took issue with this and stayed to speak to the priest after mass. He took the priest to task, pointing out that the church had always done much for life, from building hospitals and nursing homes, to cooking and distributing food, to assisting in foster care and adoption, in ministering to the homeless, in seeking justice for those in prison, and providing hospice care for the dying. Such care was provided for both female and male alike. Protecting unborn life was the necessary starting place in caring for life, a task that continued through all stages of life and death.
The thing that impressed me about this the most is that the person who shared the story had no intention of leaving his church because of the comments made that day. He was not afraid to discuss the issues and if necessary, disagree, even with the priest. He wasn’t going anywhere. His devotion and commitment to God could weather a debate on the sanctity of life.
I found this incredibly refreshing. From my experience, members of the church quickly head for the door when they disagree with something they hear from the pulpit. They seek out a place where they can hear what they want to hear. And it doesn’t take much. It can be a single word they didn’t like. Or something they interpret as politically partisan. Or a point that hits a little too close to home and makes them feel guilty. Rather than discussing the issue or making their position known or simply asking some questions, they do not return.
This tendency makes me nervous in another way, too. It makes me wonder whether the church is more connected to me or to the Lord. While my time in the pulpit is finite, the Word of the Lord lasts forever. I certainly hope your devotion and commitment aren’t contingent on me. If so, we are both in a lot of trouble.