From the Pastor’s Desk:
December 8, 2019
““By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, FAITHFULNESS, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things… If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.” Galatians 5:22-23, 25 (Bearing Fruit Series)
In my early 20s I became friends with an honest-to-goodness Kung Fu Master, Master Lindt. He had his own temple and a dozen or so students, and at the point in my life, he was one of the most interesting people I had ever met. I was blessed to study the art with him for a few years, and while I probably couldn’t pass the entry test for white belt at this point, there are many non-physical aspects of the art that have stuck with me.
I had some friends growing up who studied Karate or Tae Kwon Do but none who studied both. These students were not encouraged to learn any other martial art because it would taint and betray their own dojo; it showed a lack of faithfulness. Master Lindt was different.
As soon as you passed from white to yellow belt, you were encouraged to check out other arts: Jiu Jitsu, Sambo (the Russian martial art of grapling), Karate, and any others you could find. What Master Lindt knew was that no art was perfect on its own, but it might be possible to inch closer to perfection by having students go and learn from those other disciplines and come back and incorporate the best parts of the other arts into Kung Fu. We were encouraged to question if the way we were learning to kick or throw a punch in Kung Fu was the best way, and if there was anything we learned in the other disciplines that could better perfect our discipline. In all my time there, I never heard anyone say, "We’ve never done it that way before.”
Sometimes we think being faithful in the church is about never questioning or doubting what we do, trusting that all that has been passed down is the right way to do things. The trouble is, sometimes those things were right for their time but are wrong for now. And we have been conditioned to think that questioning the efficacy of those traditions is a betrayal, is a lack of faithfulness.
The truth about faithfulness is different, though. A faithful friend is one who will ask you the tough questions - not one who keeps their mouth shut as you hurtle into calamity. A faithful friend or church member cares enough about your future or the future of the church to force us to examine uncomfortable truths, to help us destroy a few golden calves that have crept in over the years.
The faithfulness that comes as a fruit of the Spirit is one that comes with the compassion and concern for the future of those around them, and with enough boldness to doubt and question. In a lot of ways, true faithfulness may look and feel like betrayal. The difference comes down to intent.
A faithful person's intentions are always and ever about the good of the other person. If they are in a toxic relationship or heading down a dangerous path, as a faithful person will ask them the tough questions and tell the hard truths. “What do you need to do to be free of that toxic relationship?” or “I think it’s time to check into rehab and get some serious help.” It is not pleasant. It can feel like betrayal, but the intention is for the other person's well being.
When we ask the tough questions about the direction of the church and avoid the desire to cling to the “we’ve never done it that way before” attitudes, we will find ourselves becoming a more faithful church.
The legend continues,
Don’t forget to check out the “Grace Cubed” podcast wherever you get your podcasts, or go to www.anchor.fm/gracecubed
Cherry Hill United Methodist Church