This past week another large church has been shocked and saddened by the admitted moral failure of their pastor. Scandal in the church is not at all a new experience. From the days of David with Bathsheba till today, men (and women) in positions of great influence have failed. Is this a sign that all they stood for was false or that the entire idea of God’s church is only a pipe dream? Rather than using this as a moment to vent anger and bitterness, the Bible points out that failure is an opportunity for restoration:
Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself Galatians 6:1
Staying through the storms struggling together to find God’s restoring power may be our single deepest experience of the love of God in action. God has called us together as his community (The people of God) As a community, when someone stumbles we need to rally around in prayer, encouragement and grace. Other people’s sin seems so much worse than our own especially when printed in the newspaper. But if the church is truly a hospital for sinners, rather than a rest home for saints, then when there has been a hurt, we need to rush to the emergency room of prayer. We may just discover there that the great Physician is always on duty and He stands ready to restore.
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited Romans 12:16
If we keep trying to always get our own way at church, no one will ever come out of their shell!
Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you. Romans 16:16
Though we in the U.S. aren’t big on kissing when we meet one another at church, the greeting in the church of Paul’s day was more than just a handshake and a howdy. A kiss on the cheek was a common greeting and a way of expressing affection and trust. It was a way of saying to one another “You are completely loved and accepted and all of my resources are at your disposal.” When was the last time someone greeted you in such a way? Would you be comfortable with that kind of commitment? I found it amazing as I read through this last chapter of Romans at all the people whom Paul could greet by name and with obvious familiarity and affection. He names 26 different people he knew at Rome though he had not yet even traveled there once! Could you write a letter to a church in another city and name 26 of the people there and say: “Send them my love!”? Maybe our lack of close affectionate relationship grows from our own uncomfortable relationship with God. Have you ever thought that God would want to greet you, not only by name but with a Holy kiss? I remember when my own father was still alive he would always kiss me on both cheeks in typical Italian family style. As a teen-ager I wasn’t at all comfortable with that especially in front of others. Now that my Dad has moved his address to Heaven, how I would love to have even one moment with him to feel his kiss on my cheek again.
Once Jesus was invited to Simon, the Pharisee’s house for dinner. At one point Jesus pointed out sadly that Simon had not greeted him with a common kiss. Meanwhile a woman ( known as a sinner) from the village scandalized Simon as she began to kiss the feet of Jesus! As the prodigal son was returning home his father saw him a long way off and the Bible tells us that he ran to him, embraced him and kissed him. Can you accept that this is the heart of God for you? Until we are ready to meet Father and receive His loud kisses on both cheeks we will never know how to truly give such love and acceptance to others.
Maybe today can be the day when we learn to drop all our safe boundaries between us and God and allow Him to wrap us in His loving arms. Maybe today we will begin to experience the love that is more than just being accepted. Our loving Father has welcomed us home with a Father’s kiss! We are completely loved and accepted and all His resources are at our disposal. Once we experience God welcoming us with His Holy kiss then our only question is – who will we share that kiss with today?