My mind keeps wandering back to an incident that happened this weekend.
The elementary children were gathering in the chapel for their worship time. The room was abuzz with cheerful clamour as children greeted one another, sharing indiscriminately the details of their week. I was at the front of the room with the worship leader when my eye caught one boy, no more than nine years old, sitting slumped over and alone. His demeanor went unnoticed by the classmates that surrounded him, but the Spirit of God in me made a beeline for him.
Gently I kneeled down next to him, greeted him and implored if he was okay. I wasn’t prepared for his answer. I expected he might share of a difficult morning at home; maybe he didn’t have time for breakfast, or he fought in the car with his sister. Instead, he unleashed an impassioned grievance for another boy sitting one row up from him. I abruptly stopped his tale and told him, “I am the wrong person to share this with, you must tell him.”
I fetched the other boy and excused the two of them to work out their difficulty. When it was all said and done, the first offense had occurred over a year ago, completely forgotten by the offending child. However, in the heart of the offended, the wound was growing and festering. This child’s heart was not free to worship God because it was chained down by unforgiveness, bitterness, and pain…all before the age of nine!
The three of us were able to walk through reconciliation and the two boys returned to their seats to worship God together. It was a beautiful picture of forgiveness and the commitment toward unity within the body of Christ that the Scriptures command for us to contend.
As a children’s pastor, I am accustomed to mediating disputes. I do it so often I think it should be on my job description somewhere. So what makes this occasion stand out? Why does my mind keep dragging it out for my consideration?
I’m concerned for the church. I fear that our rows of stackable chairs our filled each week with grievances years old, blocking our worship and testimony of God and His love. Why can two young children look each other in the eye and do the hard work of honest reconciliation, but adults cannot? Does of all the motion of activity blur our care and concern for one another as image bearers of God? The early Christians were known for their love for another. History records that their contemporaries often declared, “How these Christians love one another!” Would our contemporaries say the same?
I think it’s time for some of us to start pulling people out to look one another in the eye and encourage them to contend for unity…for love. Not the warm, fuzzy, comfortable love we Americans have grown used to thanks to sappy Hollywood movies. Instead, we need the kind of love that penetrates through the niceties and cold apathy and stand in the places of heart-baring honesty and commitment to one another, for the sake of Christ and His kingdom.
As Jesus prayed, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name–the name you gave me–so they may be one as we are one” John 17:11.