You’ve resolved to do better at it. That’s a good thing. I commend you. Absence does, after all, make the heart forgetful.
Nick is over at my place (he has been since Saturdayish), which is good because he makes me omelettes and stirfry. It’s also forced me to clean up a kitchen that (were evolution possible) would have otherwise been spawning life forms of vast, interconnected intelligence. Also, the fridge is now empty of the “food” that’s been in it for the last, oh, say six months. I don’t eat at home a lot, okay?
There’s nothing on TV anymore. All the season finales are done and over with, including the stirling conclusion to CSI LV’s latest season. Directed by none other than Quentin Tarantino, who’s an amazing director despite his films lack of substance. So no television for me.
It’s also the season when the summer books hit shelves near you – you know, because you can’t possibly read something with substance on the beach, can you? I defy these brainless tomes by reading philosophy on the beach, and counting the children of Abraham caught between the pages.
Do you ever wonder how well your friends really know you? I mean, not those friends you have late-night conversations with over cigars and old friends, but the ones you see maybe once a week and only ever crack jokes with. What do they see when they look at you? Do they ever really crack the surface and see what’s beneath? I know a few people really well, and even fewer people know me as well as I know them – but what of those people you don’t ever really trust? I know what I see when I look at them. I sometimes see shallow, abrasive, annoying, rude, prideful, overconfident, or introverted people. Strange how all the negative qualities rise to the surface, isn’t it? I temper that knowledge with an understanding that there exists a deeper level where qualities are hidden that I may never get a glimpse of, those things that rise to challenges and meet difficulties head-on, bravery and sacrifice and deep love and character. Still, if I were to describe any of you as I see you, and wrote it down – would you even recognize the portait in words? Would those who really know you shake their heads at it and tell me I got it backwards?
Sunday night’s sermon was about leadership in the church again, the negative qualities excluding from office and positive qualities demanded of those in office. I measure myself by that yardstick, and honestly, I don’t measure up. Not that I particularly ever want to hold any sort of office (and I’m sure there’s a boatload of people who are going to go “Oh my gosh, him?” and throw up a bit in their mouths), but that doesn’t stop me from comparing myself to the list. Now, obviously I don’t have any children, and I don’t have a wife, but what about all those other things? Disheartening to say the least. But then, the Lord is on my side. Yessir.
Another thing – and this isn’t a critique of the sermon at all, it was fine – but I get the feeling that our circles take the measure of a man by whether or not he’s on or fit for an eldership or deaconship position. This occured to me not because of what other people have said to me, but because of how I look at men in the church myself: why such and such a person wouldn’t make a good elder, or why so-an-so is so obviously disqualified from office. But the raw fact of the matter is that not everyone is called to be a deacon or an elder or a preacher or a teacher – in fact, in Romans 12, there’s a list of all those members of “the body” that is the local church – and look what it says:
So in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to hisfaith.
If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
All those things: not every man is assumed to be a leader, because clearly this isn’t so. This leads to a corellary: just because one fulfils all the qualities of a deacon or elder set forth in the pastoral epistles doesn’t mean one is fit to lead. You can have an obedient family (I know several men who have great families thanks almost exclusively to their wives), you can be blameless (by hiding in your house, maybe), you can be a lot of things, but still not be leadership material. I can’t really put my finger on what that thing is – it’s like art, I know it when I see it – but it seems to me that you need to also be granted a gift for leadership by God. And wisdom.
And I see people aspiring to be leaders: it’s a good thing. But I also see people who believe they’re good leaders when they’re actually merely louder than everyone else, or listened to by default of position, though I haven’t ever witnessed that in eldership circles per se – mostly in my interaction with my peers. I’ve seen people take “leadership” in a debate by clinging tenaciously to their point even when their point is stupid. I’ve seen people take “leadership” of a volleyball team by making all the other players feel inferior. I’ve seen people take “leadership” by making sure a group does what they want them to do regardless of whether it’s right or not. I’ve seen “leadership” that doesn’t understand the difference between a child and an . All this to say, leadership is a tricky thing. You can’t play favorites when picking leaders. You can’t lead without wisdom and a good hand at it.
The guy who does the sound at your church may never be an elder. But then, he’s doing his work to. There’s a guy that goes to my church, his name is Jason. Anyone of you who goes there know who he is – he can be offputting, but he’s maybe the happiest person I’ve ever met. He’s for sure never going to be an elder, but the church also wouldn’t be the same church without him. You think the example absurd? I know you’re thinking that right now. But it isn’t – not really.
By the way, I was reading this psalm, and though you all might like to read it.
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
I love that psalm. It’s not completely quoted above, but enough is. It’s Psalm 51: go look it up.