On two prior occasions I’ve written about the importance and power of our “little” interactions with each other, especially between “insiders” and “outsiders”, or “long-timers” and “newcomers”. It’s easy to forget what it was like to be an outsider, and to make it harder for newcomers to focus on the beauty of God, what for the social awkwardness we foist on each other. Today I want to focus on the same problem, but from the other side: how does the gospel inform our response, when people are socially insensitive, when they lose the plot and make it harder for us to enjoy God? A few thoughts:
Hopes versus expectations. We should hope to experience a different, heavenly culture within a gospel-centered, Bible-believing church. But, reading our Bibles, we should expect to find in church “not many . . . wise according to worldly standards . . . not many . . . powerful . . . not many . . . of noble birth ” (1 Cor. 1:26). Churches are generally nice places, where those less polished and self-aware in social situations still find welcome. This is for several reasons. First, we erroneously equate Christlikeness with niceness. So we put up with more with each other than perhaps we should sometimes (see the next point). But more importantly, the church is a nice, welcoming place because we have been so welcomed by God. When the gospel is consistently preached, we should expect that it will attract broken people - broken to the core. The preaching of the gospel means we will often “catch” people at their darkest season in life, not their best. The preaching of the gospel creates a culture where we welcome these ones, and give them a place to rest and seek and heal and become truly human. Until that happens, well, there’s gonna be a few rough edges. The Bride is still being prepared for the wedding.
Feedback loops. So then, it’s important to think about this with humility: maybe you and I are part of the rough edges. Maybe you and I are not as socially sensitive and wise and “of noble birth” as we think. One way to confirm this is to welcome feedback from others. “When I said that the other day, how did that land on you? What did you hear me say? Was that helpful? Really - was it?” We ask for feedback not out of insecurity or for the esteem of others, but to refine our love, to gauge whether our love for each other in the hallway is as wise as we think it is. Pride assumes; humility asks.