"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Monday, February 6, 2012

Grace under Siege 74: "The fear of Lou is great."

GRACE: A community of people who do good works living out of the (abridged) gospel for the flourishing of those who agree with them?

(continued from #73) I was remembering Lou's sermons over the past five weeks, stressing love and unity. This morning his voice was silky. "God is love. Our standard is love. 'If someone says "I love God" and hates his brother, he is a liar.'" 
     Love and unity.
     I remembered the bulletin covers we have had during this five-week series, featuring the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 15:7, "Therefore WECOME one another as CHRIST has WECOMED YOU for the glory of GOD." (Their emphasis.)   
     Love and unity. 
     After the service, Jerry and I had gone out on the plaza to get our ballots, weaving our way past elders and their wives who pointedly shunned us, avoiding our eyes and smiles. WELCOME ONE ANOTHER obviously doesn't apply to us. Interwoven with Lou's words and Paul's words in my mind were the cold words of Lou's wife and the memory of her stony face as she told Jerry and me on January 1st, "You are NOT welcome here! YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE!"
     Love and unity.
     I remembered Alan Holdich describing Lou as "intensely intimidating" when he was telling Alan not to let the congregation know what he really believes.
      "I accused him to his face of deceiving his congregation.. .  His reaction to my accusation convinced me I had hit the nail on the head. Lou came apart and I knew I couldn't stay [at the church] any longer. I shared this with the other elders and realized that the fear of Lou was great." 
     Love and unity.  
     I remembered Jerry Giles telling my husband and me that we can't pray for our church in our home without his permission. I remembered Dave Parsons refusing to let Rita Wignall speak in her own defense, insisting she sign a list of confessions or face "church discipline." I remembered John Anderson being called before the tribunal of nine executive elders to face charges that he would be removed from membership for sending out emails about them unless he repented.
     Love and unity.
     All these words played a kind of counterpoint in my mind: "Our standard is love. Therefore welcome one another--YOU--with all humility and gentleness--ARE--be of one mind--NOT--showing tolerance for one another in love, WELCOME--preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace--HERE--love one another--NOT--as we are one--WELCOME--as Christ has welcomed you--HERE!--if anyone says 'I love God' and hates his brother--intensely intimidating--he is a liar--for the glory of GOD." 

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