This past week I encountered a man at work, and I want to share the story with you. The man came in to CPO and as we began to talk I realized that he was reformed and that he goes to one of the reformed churches here in town. Jonathan and I have met others who go to this church, including some of the leadership, and we’ve decided that this man in no way reflects the views or leadership of the church.
The man came in and I realized quickly that he was reformed, and, considering I don’t meet a lot of people who are, I was excited to talk to him. I enjoyed talking to him for a while, and we talked about things that we’re passionate about, and were enjoying the conversation. There were a few things I disagreed with him on, but that’s absolutely fine, I realize that not EVERYONE has to believe the same way I do…at least not yet;-)
As the conversation went on though I began to hear some very disturbing things coming from this man. To start, he proudly said that he went to “the only reformed baptist church in town!” At first I simply corrected him and said, “well, not the only one”, but I quickly realized that he knew of our church, because he motioned to jonathan and said “oh yeah, I’m not counting the one HE planted”. Wow, I thought, well maybe he just means because we’re new, and not established yet. Shortly thereafter another of our associates reminded him that there is indeed another reformed baptist church as well besides just our two here in town, and in Ozark there is one as well. At each reminder the man quickly dismissed it as if to say “ya, but they’re not really reformed”. Again though, I thought he was probably just very passionate about his church, and this is a good thing, he might’ve been a little embarrassed as well, because there is not one, but 5 churches between here and ozark that are reformed and baptist. I of course didn’t want to press it if he was indeed embarrassed so I changed the subject. I found we much agreed on our ideas about youth group, and age segregation. He didn’t believe you should go quite as far as we go, but it was still wonderful to agree on things I’m so passionate about.
Then though, I saw something that surprised me…we were about to close and we were still enjoying our conversation, but then I realized that there had been a woman with him this whole time (I thought she was another customer), and I also realized that she was his wife. She was clearly worn out at how much we were all talking, and she clearly didn’t share the passion for these things that he did. Well, that’s not what was surprising. What shocked me was the way he treated his wife…she was clearly ready to leave, and two different times he snapped at her saying something like “they’re closing soon, why don’t you just go wait in the car if you don’t want to listen”.
At this point I shut down, and to be honest, what I had previously seen as passionate about his church and his particular beliefs, I now looked back on as pride and anger. He was extremely rude to his wife, and clearly placed her last in his order of priorities while he was there, while at the same time placing discussion with strangers about “the regulative principle of worship” and other similar subjects at the very top.
After they left, I was told that this night was special for them, it wasn’t just some stroll into a book store, this was their anniversary! So, now I was upset, because he had been so rude to his wife, and so prideful about “his church” and “his way” that everything that I had first thought to be true was quickly torn down and replaced with a man who just believed that he was at the center of the world.
Now why do I tell you this story? Well, firstly, because I want you to remember that it is not “our way or no way” when it comes to church, and I never want to hear of any of our members being so prideful about “their church”. Secondly, we must never forget that no matter how much fun it is to discuss doctrine, and to think and talk about the deep things of the faith, that faith without works is dead. And lastly, we need to remember that we mustn’t call ourselves calvinists if we intend to place ourselves, instead of God, at the center of everything. And we mustn’t say we hold to the “doctrines of grace” if we’re going to forget how to practice being gracious.
Lord help us never to get hung up on words like “calvinism” and “reformed” and “doctrine” and forget about the words you yourself used…like “gospel” and “grace” and “faith” and “justification” and “sanctification”