By Curtis K. Shelburne: Religion columnist
If heaven were not already Paradise, the mere fact that no misunderstanding will mar its joy would make it heavenly.
Drat it, yet again, I’ve heard of another misunderstanding that has broken relationships, caused deep hurt, and wasted precious energy that could be put to far better use.
Careful, now, lest you think I’m writing about anyone we might both know.
Remember the fellow in England who sent a note as a joke to his prominent acquaintances saying, “Flee. All is discovered?” Within a week, they’d almost all left the country.
Broken relationships are so common that almost anyone who reads this might think, “Goodness gracious! He’s writing about me and . . .”
As I understand the situation, a man—an exceptionally good man—got his feelings hurt. He was disappointed by something that happened in his church (a Presbyterian church, not that the brand matters) with which he disagreed seriously. His disappointment turned to anger when he realized his pastor and most of the folks in the church felt he’d over-reacted, which he then did for sure, effectively cutting himself off from those who thought he’d loved them as family. He had, but this time, his love failed, and the ground became fertile for a crop of bitterness.
Nope, I won’t tell you what the issue was, but hearing about the fuss and the fracture made me think.
Even if he was right, he was wrong. His allowing his scruples to fracture the body was far worse than the “issue.”
Almost no one else at his church thought the issue as serious as did he, and it’s a good church, which warns me that even a fine person can be beset by carnal pride that says, aloud or not, “I’m wiser, more scrupulous, more committed, than all of you; I can even turn my back on you and feel holy.”
How desperately we need to learn the truth of Romans 14. Gray areas in which equally committed Christians make different decisions have always been difficult for the church to handle. But St. Paul and God’s Spirit in Romans 14 point to the way to deal with precisely such matters, and say plainly: Love each other. Don’t judge each other. You are all saved by grace and grace alone. Uniformity of practice is not required. Love is.
Life is too short and the Christian family too precious to be fractured by pious piffle Satan builds up in our minds as being all-important. Even if it is important, precious little of it is as important as celebrating our oneness in Christ.
God can use people with strong personalities. Thank God when they’re right. Watch out when they’re wrong. “Those readiest to die for a cause easily become those readiest to kill for it.”
When we fuss, unbelievers see it and Christ is dishonored. Is the fight worth it? In my experience, almost never.
Oh, Lord, why would you want petty humans like us in your church? Wouldn’t angels have caused less turmoil?
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at