Building up to Easter it's hard to ignore that Jesus's life wasn't all that comfortable. The way he died was horrific and painful. Not only that, he was betrayed and humiliated.
As followers of Christ we are supposed to look to Jesus as a model for our lives. Yet, somehow, especially within church communities, we often feel under pressure to present ourselves as joyful ... all the time...
I came across this as as part of my readings for one of my Otago Uni theology papers. It's written by Michael Riddell, a New Zealand thinker. (Click here for info on the book it's out of)
At the coal-face of congregational life, the exclusion of suffering results in deception and game-playing. People and 'rejoicing in the Lord'. It is a shallow response, because the pain which they feel unable to exhibit or share if rooted in the depths of their heart, and that level of emotion and honesty is outlawed by convention. When a congregation participates in corporate dishonesty, it is not surprising that they do not experience the passion of God. Christian faith proclaims that God is present in the darkest suffering; perhaps the exclusion of pain is also the exclusion of God.
When my Dad died I didn’t go to church for weeks. At the time I was part of the most loving church community and I still haven’t quite figured out why I found it so hard to attend church while I was in the initial stages of grief.
If we want Church in Progress to be a place that emulates God’s love for everyone – no matter what – we need to welcome everyone, in all circumstances.
If you’d like to enter into this conversation in the comment below, have a think about the following questions to get you started …
- - Is your church a place where people can grieve, get angry, cry? How does it do that – or why isn’t it that kind of place?
- - Do you think followers of Christ should be happy all the time? Why or why not?
- - What do you think of Riddell using the words ‘corporate dishonesty’ to describe some congregations?