It’s funny the way we usually think of danger as coming from outside ourselves and our group. It must be the “other” that is responsible for harming us, or harming those close to us…and that is often true. I think though that it is not true as often as we think it is.
Think about these scenarios:
You hear your child speak unkindly to a sibling or make a disrespectful remark when you ask them to do something. You ask “Where did you learn that?”
You hear a discussion at church about an issue the church is facing and the comment is made “well that’s because we’ve been influenced by ________.”
Our first reaction is almost always to place the blame for things going badly on someone else (think back to the garden). We need to stop this. For one thing we often stop at this point without ever dealing with the issue because we are so busy apportioning the blame. For another thing in many cases we have either chosen to allow influences into our lives or we have arrived at a point because we want to be there and blaming outside influences is a way of excusing ourselves from responsibility.
Of course my child couldn’t just decide to talk back he had to learn it from someone. Maybe…but probably not. I know children who couldn’t yet talk before they started arguing and talking back, that was part of their personality and they didn’t need any outside influence to decide to do it.
I’ve seen churches where there was a conscious decision to follow a certain path in order to “build numbers” and it went badly. That wasn’t the fault of the outside influence that was the fault of the members forgetting that the important thing wasn’t numbers. They didn’t need any outside influence to arrive at that conclusion. Groups have been measuring their success by their numbers for centuries!
In this week’s collect we pray:
“…let thy continual pity cleanse and defend thy Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without thy succor, preserve it evermore by thy help and goodness…” (Collect for Proper 13 BCP)
We assume that that means “protect us from persecution” (and it does) but more than that it means “protect the church from her members”. We are the danger to the Church. We are all too good at focusing on the inessentials, at pointing out the mote in our brother’s eye and at destroying the very thing we are trying to preserve. To say “this is human” and accept it is to shirk responsibility. We may say “this is human” but we must not accept it. We must make our prayer “preserve the Church ,O Lord, and build the Church, but particularly protect the Church from me.”