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My wife and I love each other. I need to make that clear.
We both had a few days leave at the end of August, so we each took a holiday. Carolyn went to the Northumbia Community and I went to London. Carolyn loves peace, tranquillity and time to just sit and do nothing. Meanwhile, although I also stayed in a retreat house and went to Morning Prayer each day, I had a very busy week. I went to two Shakespeare plays at the Globe, had lunch with a friend, enjoyed visiting several art galleries and museums, and walked over 20,000 steps each day (my phone tells me). I may have ADHD…
Someone has said that marriage is not about marrying the one you love, but loving the one you marry, and the purpose of marriage is not to have all your needs met, but to “knock the rough edges off you” so that you become a better person. False expectations may be the reason why many marriages are breaking down these days.
Perhaps we can apply the same thoughts to church. We are all different. Do we have false or varying expectations of what church is for? One of my biggest worries about the future of the church is that we have even become consumerist about our faith. “What’s in it for me?”
In the Bible, it’s evident that from the earliest times, becoming a Christian didn’t instantly turn people into perfect saints. In his letter to the Ephesian church, Paul tells them, “Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” These were not perfect people!
The New Testament only uses the word “pastor” once, but it uses the phrase “one another” over fifty times, such as in the verses above. In the next chapter of Ephesians it says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Sadly, some translations lay out the text so that it looks like the only submission is by women towards their husbands, but the text is actually an opening sentence to a section about all sorts of relationships.
Perhaps we can see our relationships at church (and beyond) as an obligation to serve one another, not just as something purely to benefit ourselves. In the marriage service, the couple promise to love and honour one another. It’s clear that this is not about feeling “in love” but about a choice to put the other person first, something Christians are called to do in all our relationships, even with our enemies.
Why? Well, look at the reasons Paul gives above; “… as God in Christ has forgiven you.” And “… out of reverence for Christ.” Jesus said about himself, that the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve. We are called to do the same.
PS: Just so you know, Carolyn and I have also been on holiday together this year (twice) …
Blessings in Christ
Canon Derek: Diocesan Director of Ordinands and Vocations
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