But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. ~ Saint Paul
Often folks who come to church irritate me. You know who I am talking about. Children who were not raised in church don’t know that you don’t get up and go to the bathroom ten times during the sermon, men wearing a dirty John Deere cap into the worship area, teenage girls texting messages to one another, teenage boys wearing their pants too low, old ladies who have long since lost their ability to smell that they are putting on way too much perfume, and Oakland Raider fans in general. These things distract me and cause me to stumble in my worship.
One time I went to a church service to hear a friend of mine preach. I noticed about four pews down that there was a young couple who seemed new to the church experience. The reason I say that is because they were rather shabbily dressed. I thought they could have given a better effort. That’s fine, I reasoned. They are new to church. Cut them some slack.
My friend began to preach his sermon and I was really enjoying it. I felt God was teaching me and challenging me in profound ways. Suddenly, this young couple began to kiss and cuddle. She was kissing his earlobe and he was so close to her that there was no daylight between them. And what was worse, is that they were in my line-of-sight to the pastor. I couldn’t watch Pastor Dave without seeing their shameless display of PDA.
We are in church not a drive-in theater, for crying out loud!
I was trying to hear God but these ragamuffins were hindering me. I tried closing my eyes and just listening. That worked for a little bit, but then I began to grow angrier remembering that I had gotten up that morning, showered, put on my best clothes, drove down to the church in the rain, put my tithe in the plate—and now I must shut my eyes to hear from the pastor. I could have stayed home and watched Joel Hagee preach about My Best Blood Moon Now, for crying out loud.
So, I opened my eyes again and tried to be mature about it.
It didn’t work. I found myself getting more frustrated. Thought to myself, “I’m going to have to speak to that couple. I’m certain that I’m not the only person who is distracted, and in the interest of the edification of this church, I will take the responsibility to help them adjust their behavior.”
It was about this time that Jesus spoke to me,
“Joe, how about talking to Me about them.”
“Lord, it is hard to pray for someone who is irritating,” I whined.
“Tell me about it,” Jesus answered.
That made me pout, but what I heard next made me sad.
“Joe, there are countless people that want to hear from Me but they can’t because the church is self-absorbed,” Jesus said.
What do you say to that?
I left that day praying for that couple, hoping that they come back to church next week, and making a mental note to sit in front of them if they do.