Some years ago I came on board as a staff pastor at a new church. Not long after, a couple from the church invited us over for dinner. We certainly appreciated their hospitality.
Overall, the conversation was cordial, but I did notice on occasion some complaints about the church sprinkled in.
Now, I realize every church is worthy of some complaints. No church is perfect; we all have room to grow and stretch.
But what caught my attention was the attitude in which these complaints were delivered.
These comments seemed to come with a fair measure of pride. The kind of pride that communicates, “I have all the answers, and I have a hard time with those who don’t know all the things I know.”
Also, the comments also seemed to be a bit tinged with a spirit of rebellion. Meaning, it almost seemed like going against the grain brought about some strange glee.
At one point, one of our hosts talked about her experience in Bible college and how she took great pleasure in breaking some of the rules she felt were to legalistic for her tastes.
Now, mind you, most of our time together was fine. It was just every now and then our conversation was sprinkled with these disconcerting comments.
But as my time in this church went on, this couple became more discontent and disruptive.
It got to the point that it seemed no one in our church could do anything right.
It began to feel like their perspective of us was that we were just a bunch of oafs tripping over one another.
-We didn’t teach the Word right.
-We didn’t carry out missions to their satisfaction.
-We fell way short in our expression of compassion.
Bottom line, pretty much anything we thought, said, or did was not worthy of their high view of ministry practice.
All in all, we appeared to be a source of constant disappointment to this couple that seemed to have all the answers.
Well, such dissatisfaction can only go on so long.
In time, they left our church in search of something more in line with their lofty standards. (I’m not sure if they ever landed anywhere.)
A few years after I moved on to another church (right about the time Facebook was catching on) I was online and came across the name of one-half of this constantly-disappointed couple.
Guess what? They had become divorced.
Now, it may be too simplistic on my part, but I couldn’t help think to myself: “The couple who constantly let us know all the failures we were committing at our church couldn’t find a way to keep their own marriage together?”
I don’t know the circumstances of the split, but my hunch is that the weight of their pride, disappointment and non-conformity had something to do with their severance.
After enough time, all that pressing burden caused things to finally give way.
And it makes sense. Such corrosive attitudes form a terrible foundation for any type of relationship. Especially the God-ordained relationship of marriage.
No, the pathway of the long haul relationship must be, ultimately, paved with humility, along with a good measure of contentment and a solid degree of submission.
Such is an unrelenting, overarching theme that flows from the pages of both the Gospels and the Epistles.
Its allowing things such as kindness, gentleness, deference, thoughtfulness, love, joy and peace to overcome our flesh-driven attitudes of judgmentalism, discontentment, disappointment, agitation, rebelliousness and gloating.
Of the pride that often does us in, Phillips Brooks said:
“Whatever makes us feel superior to other people, whatever tempts us to convey a sense of superiority that is the gravity of our sinful nature, not grace.”
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:1-12 ESV)