Friday, June 27, 2014

The Poison of Suspicion in the Life of the Church

When my son was only four months old he contracted a virus that led to a failure to breathe. In the desperate effort to re-start his respiratory system, Will started seizing as they intubated. The paediatrician was flummoxed. Thankfully, God answered prayer and the boy started breathing again with manual assistance.
Doctors from Sick Kids Hospital arrived and were perplexed by the seizing and the resultant comatose state. It was throwing off a diagnosis. After questioning the attending paediatrician and nurses, they thought Will might have been given an overdose of morphine when they had attempted the intubation. There was one way to find out.
The doctor administered Narcan, an opioid antagonist that quite suddenly nullifies the effects of drugs like morphine or heroine. Will went from a comatose state right back to a crying baby in seconds. The effect of the morphine was totally negated.
We were thankful for a great doctor team from Sick Kids and a clear diagnosis.
I have often marvelled at that Narcan. It is strange to watch a drug work so quickly and decisively. If you think about it, there are very few changes in life that come about that suddenly. But there is one evil element of church life that can be reversed almost as quickly with a kind of spiritual Narcan.

We live in a suspicious society. We don’t trust politicians, the police or clergy. We tend to think there is always more to the story than others are letting on. It is the age of the conspiracy theorists – just watch your TV tonight and you will see what I mean. And that suspicion can easily ooze into the life of a church. Last time I checked, however, suspicion was not a fruit of the Spirit. Thankfully, there is a spiritual Narcan to suspicion.
Love is a suspicion antagonist. Why?
Love hopes all things.
Fundamental to real Christian love is thinking the best about everyone. Love dwells on truth, not fiction. It anticipates that Christians will respond and live like Christians, even if they haven’t in a while. Love dismisses every conspiracy theory as rubbish and chooses to live with the happy anticipation that a brother will come around soon enough. Love lives in reality. Love is eager to forgive. Love is willing to be wronged. And love deals with the presenting facts, not the imagined motives or schemes of others.
If a church faithfully loves one another, suspicion flies out the back door. This is virtually instantaneous, because you cannot be skeptical and trusting at the same time.
I can hear my critics already – even Jesus said be as shrewd as serpents! I hear you. But he also told us to be as innocent as doves. How can those two co-exist? The only explanation is Gospel-motivated love. Plus, Jesus gave this dual-command to his disciples as they were about to take the Gospel out into the world, not into the church dinner.
The Apostle Paul knew what it was to be betrayed (2 Timothy 4:10), abandoned (Acts 15:38) and forgotten (2 Timothy 4:16); but he moved on, forgave (2 Timothy 4:11) and persevered… in love. Even as he was instructing the Philippians in love, he mentioned how some, out of their own selfish ambition, were neglecting him in prison and trying to get the premier position in that day’s celebrity pastor circuit. What does Paul say of them? Only what a heart set free by love could say: “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice…” (Philippians 1:18)
I fear that we are not doing enough in our churches to curb the growth of suspicion. The poison of suspicion can only be drawn by love. And that means we need to be preaching on, thinking about and living out love in our own lives. Erasing suspicion starts with you, not your neighbour. 
The Bible does not say, “Beloved, let us be leery of one another.” Nor, “if we are cynical of one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”
If you are going to err in this life, err on the side of love. You may find you end up being a lot more like God in the long run.

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