In recent weeks, the local paper has reported two stories involving area churches. In thinking about those stories, I wondered what it would be like if Jesus had used them in a parable. Perhaps it would be something like this.
“There was a church in a city that decided to bring charges against one of its members, a woman, and convene a church trial. She was accused of sowing dissention in the congregation because she had spoken out against the leadership of the church. She had also persisted in nominating women to the governing board of the church, in spite of the fact that women were not allowed to serve. If she were found guilty, she would be forced to leave the church.”
“Now in that same city, there was another church. This church had a long history of dissention within the congregation. Ministers had been under fire and felt forced to resign. Members left to join other congregations to flee from the backbiting and anger. The people were filled with pain and sorrow, some feeling unnecessarily righteous. Now a certain minister was called to lead the church and believed that the time had come to heal the wounds of the church. He organized a service in which all those who had left and all those who had been hurt and the ministers of the past could come together. This man began by humbling himself before the former ministers, washing their feet. The people in the pews began to reconcile with each other. People were weeping with relief and regret, but most of all, with joy. The following Sunday when the congregation met to worship it was reported that the Spirit filled the place and the people rejoiced.”
“Now which of these groups seemed to best live out my commandment to ‘love one another as I have loved you?’” Having asked this question, Jesus would fall quiet, waiting for his listeners to answer. Perhaps one brave soul would finally say, “Master, the people who forgave and were reconciled.” And Jesus would probably say, “You have said well. Now go and reconcile yourselves to those who have something against you and call others to reconciliation in my name.”
Some among those who heard this would have walked away determined to renew their commitment to a life of reconciliation, while others would have said, “This is a hard saying,” and simply have walked away. Something to ponder this Lenten season.