One of the things I adore about our church is the genuine love people have for one another. Time and again we see the congregation responding to a need in astonishing ways. The help may be through meals, transport or with doing things around the house. Sometimes it’s with practical help, sometimes – such as with a disaster in another area – it’s with money, but always it’s with prayer. If there’s one thing you will never escape from at Ampthill Baptist Church, it’s being prayed for! Prayer comes as standard and we are an actively praying church. The caring comes as standard too, although we’re not going to poke about in your life until we find something we can help with; we are not mind readers, you need to tell us that you need help. Some choose to and others, for whatever reason, don’t. That’s fine, but let us pray for you, even if mentioning what it’s for is a step too far right now. To know there are in excess of 250 people caring for you, praying for you and rooting for you is a great encouragement!
Sometimes though, we need care of another kind and this can be difficult to action, both in giving the care and receiving it. This type of care very much measures the Christian maturity on both sides of the equation. I’m talking about correction; someone noticing you’re wandering off in a concerning direction and taking steps to encourage you to look at what you’re doing and put yourself back on the right course. It takes a mature Christian to act sensitively to raise the problem and it takes a mature Christian to accept the correction.
Admitting you are wrong is never an easy thing to do, but if you’re not receiving a little nip at the heels now and again, ask yourself if your fellow Christians care enough for you? Nobody’s perfect, not you and especially not me!
I get both praise and censure for my blogs and I’m glad of both. Obviously, I’d prefer to receive more of the praise, but I would worry if I wasn’t getting the complaints as well because I’d know that people had given up caring about me.
I’m very much a ‘what you see is what you get’ person; whatever I write will be shot through with exactly how I’m feeling and what I’m thinking. Sometimes this reveals unreconstructed parts of me that wiser people may have kept hidden. But this is me, pure and unadulterated me. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes I get it wrong. Other people make mistakes and they might get away with it. I make mistakes and the entire world knows about it – or at least the ones using the internet.
I’ve never hidden online, I’ve never felt the need to hide behind an online persona, a pseudonym or worse – anonymity. If I have something to say (and I frequently do), I will always put my name to it. I am guilty of saying what I think far too much. In one way this can be classed as ‘refreshing’, I’m a plain-spoken sort of person and if you want my opinion I’ll give it to you. However, this comes with a downside; I may inadvertantly upset someone in the process and if there’s one thing I really DON’T like doing, it’s upsetting people. I love to make people laugh, I love to make people think; but if I upset someone, that tears me apart inside.
I recognise that coming back to me and telling me that I’ve upset you can be a hard thing to do, but I encourage you to do it because how else do I grow and mature, both as a writer and in my Christian faith?
I always strive to be an encourager and a supporter. I love nothing better than to be able to cheer people on to their goals as much as people over the years have cheered me on to mine. This is why I love being a House Group leader, enabling and encouraging our small band of Christians to move onwards in their spiritual journey. I hope very much that I’m doing that here too. But if I’m being a hindrance, if I’m not being the best that I can be and dragging myself (and you) down with thoughtless comments, then I’m not fulfilling the work God has given me to do.
I really believe I’m here to pull you up and pull you along; if I’m dragging you down, the chances are he’s going to send one of you to tell me, or confront me with Bible readings (that frequently happens).
Earlier this week I was reading Romans 14. True, this chapter is mainly concerned with eating and drinking but it has a wider resonance to those of us who put ourselves out there ‘on the internet’ and who might be in a position to influence younger Christians.
“...each of us will have to give a personal account to God. So don’t condemn each other any more. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not put an obstacle in another Christian’s path.” Romans 14: 12-13 (NLT)
“So let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.” Romans 14: 19 (NLT)
I want to be the sort of person who builds you up, I don’t want to be the person putting obstacles in your path. I will be upset to hear that I am, but I NEED to know that I am!
I want to be a writer, I believe God wants me to use the gifts He’s given me to be a writer and one of the things I want to focus on is the experience of living the Christian life. However, this comes with the proviso that I am using my gift responsibly and not creating a giant obstacle course in the process. This responsibility has to be evident in whatever I write; from a blog entry, a Facebook status update or a 140 character tweet. You should be able to tell I’m a Christian in whatever platform I’m on and if you can’t, then I’m not doing my job correctly and you need to tell me. That’s your responsibility as fellow Christians.
What is my responsibility is to take the correction, lovingly offered – this isn’t about causing collateral damage, we’re not World of Warcraft on here – on board and make sure that I am building myself up to be a more mature Christian and a better writer in the process. It’s a nudge back onto the path, it’s a snap at my heels, it’s a firm hand on my back to stop me ending up somewhere where I am not salt and light to the world, but pavement ballast (Matthew 5: 13-16).
The internet is a wonderful thing, blogs are wonderful things. Facebook and Twitter bring me endless joy and amusement, but it’s my responsibility to use them in the manner expected of a Christian with nearly ten years walk with God under her belt; not as a place to vent innermost frustrations that may cause someone else to trip and fall. God’s put me on this earth to do a job; occasionally I don’t do it to his satisfaction and I’m glad he has ways of letting me know, either directly or through other people. I know he cares about me.
I really should not be upset or worried about correction, because the day I say something offensive and nobody bats an eyelid, is the day I know I have fallen off God’s radar – and that is something to be very worried about indeed.
Cheer me on when I do something good, pick me up when I fall short of the required standard and I’ll do the same for you in return. Together we can remain accountable to one another and firmly in God’s guiding hands.
Right then, looks like I have an apology to go and make.