As a Pastor's wife, some things disturb me maybe more than they do others especially when it hurts more vulnerable sheep in the congregation. This blog is in response to some of you younger Pastor's wives who have asked me to talk about things that I've seen and dealt with in my 32 years of being a Pastor's wife.
Because it's summer, that season where church attendance becomes secondary, (I thank God that He never takes vacations from us! What a mess that would be!), people are often missing from church on Sunday morning. One of the things that I despise is when I overhear questionable conversations about other church members. Usually these conversations take place when the subject of the conversation is not there of course and the reason for the conversation is because they aren't there.
Sometimes I hear, "I wonder where so and so is. I hope they are alright. I think I'll check in on them after church to see if they need anything." That warms my heart because it is body life at it's best. It shows a genuine trust, concern, and action for the other members of our spiritual family.
Sometimes I hear things like "I wonder where so and so is today. I hope they didn't fall into sin." Now, to be honest, comments like this really burn my biscuits! Even if it is known why they aren't in church, if the person commenting doesn't approve of the reason, it is said with contempt. I've heard this all my life in churches I've been in and it sickens me.
I'm not so naive to think that everyone in our current body is saved but I have to admit that I think the large majority of them are committed Christians. No, none of them are perfect. No two look the same. They live their lives differently on many different levels. They don't always do what even their Pastor recommends but I wouldn't for one moment question their salvation. It's not my responsibility to be the sin police. That's the Holy Spirit's job. Immediately wondering if someone is sinning just because you don't know why they aren't in church defies 1 Corinthians 13 when it says "Love always thinks the best of another."
I sat one afternoon and pondered why people are so quick to believe or think the worst of a person or a situation. These are the reasons that I came up with.
They never read 1 Corinthians 13.
They read it but don't think it applies to them.
They read and understand it, but are choosing not to walk it out.
They think that they are so perfect that everyone should live up to their standards because they ARE the standard. If anyone does anything differently, they must be in sin. There is a large amount of legalism involved in this, and legalism will kill a church a Christian's spirit.
They forget some of the squirrelly reasons that they miss church that no one challenges them on. (Of course, if you're perfect in every way, then your reasons are sanctified. But if anyone else misses, even for one of the same reasons you miss, it's not okay. Yes, I've seen this!)
They think that God has appointed them to His police force that goes around identifying and calling out sin. They are too anxious and quick to assume that sin is involved. This tells me that maybe there is a sin problem but in the accuser, not the accused.
Seriously, we just need to leave each other alone, mind our own business, and genuinally treat others the way Christ would treat them.
"Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need. 1 Thess 4:9-12
If we are doing what this verse says, everyone will be fine. It's not our job to go around trying to "catch" people in sin. When the sin, if it exists, needs exposed, God will do it in His own time and in His own way. Then...and only then...does a "spiritual" person step in to restore, not to accuse, not to condemn, not to judge, but to restore!
As a Pastor's wife, when I have heard this in churches, I normally tell people in a nice way to mind their own business. I remind them how they would feel if someone were doing this to them and remind them of the golden rule. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." We need to let people know we care but first, we need to genuinally care! Then and only then should we ask them where they were when we missed them.
Let me say a word too about genuinely caring. If a person does not feel genuinely cared for, they are not the problem. The person trying to convey the care is the problem. The Bible says that God has shed His love abroad in our hearts. So when we love people it is His love that we love them with. If they are not "feeling the love", chances are we are not loving them the way Christ would and we need to make an adjustment and to examine our own hearts, allowing the Holy Spirit to shine His light in our hearts to find out why. Yes, it's humbling to have to examine your own motives but it is necessary both for your effectiveness in ministering to others and for the sake and well being of those you want to minister to.
Some say, "love is not a feeling." Hogwash! Love is a feeling! There are times when tough love is needed. There are other times when showing love to another person is harder than normal. But there are always feelings involved. Saying that love is not a feeling allows people to interact with others without feeling and that never feels good when you are on the receiving end. Furthermore, God is able to put a genuine love inside of you for every believer because it is His love that you love them with. His love is not without feeling. Jesus corrected a lot of people in Jerusalem, but He also wept over them. I'd say that the love He had for them He felt. People use "love is not a feeling" as an excuse to pound on people and when I see that, I step in. I hate spiritual bullying even though the bully may think that they are "helping" by bringing that person into the right way of thinking, which most of the time happens to be their way of thinking.
As Pastor's wives, we have to love everyone. Frankly, there are people in every church that are just hard to love. I have learned and experienced that God will place His love for them in my heart and enable me to love them in the truest, purest way and the end result is that usually I end up liking them too because I realize that they really aren't much different than I am.