Many years ago, approximately 30 years if I have to think about it, we were a part of a small but friendly church in a semi-rural town in the lower North Island. After the service on Sunday (only the one service!) we would head into the church hall and have a cup of tea etc if we felt to do that. In this way, as it is for any group including church fellowships, relationships are built up and deepened. There is simply nothing like sitting with someone and ‘doing life’ together. You get to know each other, appreciate each other more and in doing so, the depth of relationship increases and deepens.
One day, a young couple who were good friends of ours at that church, complained to us that the church was not a very friendly place. They’d been coming along for quite some time and yet, from their perspective, the people weren’t friendly. I thought that was quite a wrong observation and actually quite unjust. So I pointed out to them something they simply had not seen. They’d turn up to church right on time or maybe a little late. They’d always sit near the back (as apparently good Presbyterians are called to do). And when the service was over, they’d just get up, walk out the front doors which were only a few steps away from where they were sitting, and then they’d go home. I suggested that they thought the church was unfriendly because they never arrived early to chat with people, nor did they ever linger afterwards, even having a cup of tea alongside others. In that way, how could they even comment on how friendly the church was or make any negative comments about the fellowship? They simply did not have the information or experience of relationship with others to comment.
The couple, especially the husband pondered over what I said. They turned to me, smiled and said that I was right! After that, they always came a little early and hung around after the service, chatting and catching up with others. No further complaints ever surfaced.
Unfortunately today, we can still find those who have no relationship with a fellowship because they come late and leave like the hound of the Baskervilles is after them. Unfortunately these are often also the ones who seem to have the most to say at times, even to criticising a fellowship of which they really know nothing.
It’s a sad critique of today’s world isn’t it where that happens; where I’m always right (even without sufficient information) and ‘the others’ are worthy of being judged because they’re wrong.
I wonder sometimes if we oughtn’t look a little closer to home at times and check ourselves? I think that at times it wouldn’t do any harm. In fact, just like that couple I mentioned above, a whole new life can spring forth like never before; not only being blessed but in also being a blessing.