When I Got in Trouble in Church
They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” Romans 9:32-33
One Sunday, when I was a kid, my mother wasn’t in church for some reason and so, my sister and I sat together near the front as my father preached. Without mom there to maintain control, my sister and I began fighting. Consumed by our petty conflict, we were oblivious to our raising voices. My father was preaching, but we weren’t listening – until his voice grew quite loud as we realized he was speaking directly to the two of us, telling us to be quiet. It was dreadfully uncomfortable for everyone involved. Yes, I’m talking to you two.
I had a somewhat similar experience in reading today’s passage. Every day, in preparation for tomorrow’s blog, I find tomorrow’s passage and then meditate on it until morning when I write about it. Yesterday, I skipped over today’s passage at first, assuming it was about someone else and had little pertinence to me.
In the passage, Paul referred to Jesus as an offensive stone over which many stumble. Many of Paul’s countrymen sought God, but they were offended by Christ. Unwilling to believe in him, they remained unable to find authentic faith in God. I don’t find Jesus offensive though. I’m a Christian so this doesn’t apply to me, right?
It struck me however, that although I call myself a Christian, I often still follow me. In my daily decision making, it honestly offends me to surrender my will. So, I retain control, doing whatever I desire. I may claim to follow Christ, but frankly, I hate giving up my right to do what I want and so, I don’t do it. At least those who refuse to accept Christ are honest about it. I claim to follow him, but in reality, I’ve often still followed me. As it turns out, like my father from the pulpit, Paul was speaking to me.
In AA, we say that addiction is our self-will run riot. In recovery then, I must work on abandoning my will. Simply saying I believe, and calling myself a Christian, doesn’t transform or save me. Authentic faith means that I believe in Christ and I follow him. I can claim to follow Christ, but if I never get around to working on abandoning my path, I prove that my faith is a sham and I’m no better off than those who simply refuse to accept him. Yes, I’m talking to you.