A Bomb Explodes in Church!
As some of you may have gathered, I encourage people to ask questions or make comments right in the middle of my messages. I love the freedom, but let me tell you, it's scary! Like today, for example! When there is a death in the congregation and we as a church need to process some grief, we open up the mic. So, following our friend's suicide this week, we needed to work it through as a community. Today, it began with Trent leading worship and songs for an hour with communion mixed in there. Then I read from Lamentations 3:1-23. Kind of depressing, but ending with hope. Then I opened up the floor. There were lots of encouraging words, prayers, thoughts, and one even read from a sympathy card she was planning on sending the family. Then one man motioned for the mic, and I put it in front of him, and he said, basically, that if you commit suicide, you're going to hell, plain and simple. I felt the blood drain from my face and my heart sink to my shoes. This is the problem with freedom: it must allow for freedom of speech and thought, no matter how uncomfortable. This was going to be the last comment and we were going to close in prayer, but now I guess not. In my mind I was kicking myself for allowing one more comment. A few people left because they had a family member kill herself just a couple of years ago. They were upset, understandably. This is what I did: I thanked him for his comment. I kindly told him I disagreed with him. I explained that, again, only God is judge, he is a God of mercy, and we can't judge anyone's condition on just one act or we'd all be in trouble... etc., etc.... Others in the congregation dove right in. Okay, I'm thinking, we're going to be here a little longer. Others suggested that maybe we all needed to let this open us up to a larger idea of God and his mercy, that we all are sinners, that we all depend on grace, and that we all, to some extent, are killing ourselves. Even to think that we haven't "confessed" some sin before we die is a legalistic idea of salvation, because, as someone said, we all have sin that we aren't even conscious of. The floor came alive with wise comment after comment. So, this is what I think: although the gentleman's comment may be untrue, it may have been unwise or calloused to say that at this time. But more significantly, this gentleman articulated the most popular Christian stand on suicide, and he laid the cards on the table. Earlier, one woman did ask publicly, "So, what IS our standing on this issue?" He gave it it's true voice and it forced us to quit pussy-footing around and get down to the real issue and question at hand. Which is why I have this print of Simon Tookoome's "Argument". It is all one piece, with argument happening within the union. This is my idea of unity in diversity. This man needed to express what he believed. He may be echoing other peoples' belief. But he also needed to be challenged. I shook his hand after and thanked him, and I saw others being kind to him afterwards also. Although it felt like a bomb went off in our midst and our initial reaction was panic and anger, the dust settled to reveal, I hope, a community wrestling with real issues under God.