Monday, March 7, 2011
Sitting in the Pews
Several rows in front of me were packed with college students in church this morning. I was aware of their youthful enjoyment of worshiping together. A girl sat a row ahead of me, by herself with empty chairs on both sides. Two girls wandered down the aisle while we were singing looking for seats. The girl in front of me caught their eye and motioned for them to come sit by her. They continued down the aisle but came back when they couldn't find any open seats. Squeezing past people they greeted her and sat down. As we stood to sing they spotted two open seats a few rows up. They grabbed their things, squeezed past people again and moved up. I watched them throw their arms around their friends in that row. I barely moved as I watched the girl in front of me, alone once again - rejected and deserted. My heart shattered for her.
Jesus was radical in his teachings. "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." Matt. 5:43-44 How can we as Christians talk about "loving our enemies", not to mention "loving our neighbor" when we can't even love the people we are sharing a pew with at church? Jesus tried to make us see that being a Christian was so much more than just following a bunch of rules. If I love my neighbor than I am obedient to God. I can do that, my neighbor is nice. But I can't love my enemy on my own. I can only love my enemy because I have experienced God's unconditional love towards me.
I couldn't sing as I watched the girl in front of me. She closed her eyes, looked down and raised her hand to God. Slowly the words around me began to register in my mind.
"No weeping, no hurt or pain
No suffering You hold me now
you hold me now"
In church, a place that should be full of love, this girl learned that only in and through God can we be loved completely and unconditionally.