Tag Archives: me

petty

mosquito sucking bloodA couple of years ago my wife and I got to spend a day with one of our professors from college. I say “our” even though I never took him for a class,  because of how instrumental he was in shaping both of our paths. My wife often says that she would have spent her entire student debt on his one class that she took because of what it meant to her faith walk. And in our lives together he’s the person that we have often turned to during difficult times in ministry and he usually has some small nugget of truth that resonates with us for months and even years to come. This day was no exception as we found ourselves talking about ministry and the church again. At some point in the conversation he says to us, “You know what the two great sins of the church are? Being boring or being petty.” At the time I kind of shrugged it off, as I am apt to do…but time reveals so much, doesn’t it?

I’ve come to realize how much truth there was to that statement. The first piece is pretty self-explanatory. The last thing the church should ever be boring with is the life-transforming message of the Gospel. The second piece is something we have all lived with and seen in our own contexts. We love to major on the minors. We will go to war in the church over the color of carpet, style of worship, wall decor, etc. And the grudges we hold if we don’t get our way. Paul says this to the people of Colossians, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” – Colossians 3:12-13 Clothe, dress, adorn, put-on love, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience! In other words, don’t be petty. Don’t major on the minors. Keep the first things first.

And if you don’t think pettiness is a big problem consider this adage from the Dalai Lama, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito”. Granted, he may have meant this in a positive light, but I have trouble seeing anything positive associated with mosquitoes. If we allow pettiness to dictate our actions, it can destroy relationships, families and even churches over stuff that at the end of the day doesn’t even matter. I have seen friendships ruined over stuff that people shouldn’t even be getting up in arms about, but because they have taken a stand, they can’t back down. And at the end of the day, when we allow pettiness to dictate our actions, we have allowed sin to control our lives…because truly is about me and not about we. I always find myself coming back to the quote by Meldenius, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” Perhaps it is time for some of us to learn not to be petty in non-essentials and to clothe ourselves in charity for the sake of our friendships, our churches and the world.

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Sometimes as pastors we often ask hard questions. And truth be told many of us ask the same questions and more difficult ones of ourselves at times.

Am I being effective in my ministry?

Are people’s lives being transformed?

Am I making a difference?

Am I living into the calling Jesus has for me?

Not sure if you caught the thread there, but a lot of those questions, in fact a lot of the doubt that circulates in church culture seems to be rather ‘me’ focused. I need to work on my issues. I need to be more effective. I, I, I…When really that is not what we are called to at all.

The crux of a lot of this issue is the society of which you and I find ourselves a part of. This statement is of course made with the assumption that most of the people who read this belong to the Western industrialized world. The world in which we live is increasingly ‘me’ driven. How can I get in better shape? How can I improve my value and worth? How can I get more stuff? When really this has little or nothing to do with our calling and the journey that Christ has called us to. There is this wonderful passage in the Sermon on the Mount that I am pretty sure most of us are familiar with. Jesus feels the need to teach us to pray and it goes a little something like this, “OUR Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give US today OUR daily bread. And forgive US OUR debts, as WE also have forgiven OUR debtors. And lead US not into temptation, but deliver US from the evil one” Not sure if you caught my subtle editing there or not, but I am pretty sure I am not reading any first person pro-nouns in that text. And unless you or I are British Monarchy I am pretty sure we don’t refer to our needs in the first person.

What I think I am trying to point out is that this prayer is intrinsically communal. And if this prayer, taught to us by God in flesh himself, is formative to who we are called to be, then we are called on this journey together and not individually. Let’s go back to those hard questions for a second. All of them are lined with self-doubt. What if we looked at them a little differently:

Are we being effective in our ministry?

Are people’s lives being transformed because of us?

Are we making a difference?

Are we living into the calling Jesus has for us?

All of a sudden the burden gets a little lighter. It doesn’t excuse us from responsibility for making disciples and bringing God’s Kingdom, but it somehow makes it seem a little more possible. Maybe it is time to throw off our religious self-doubt and embrace our church calling. Maybe as the body of Christ we come to realize it is not just about me, but more about we. And maybe by learning to live life better together we find ourselves no longer asking questions of doubt but celebrating stories of faith as we journey together.


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