Oh…Not Them! Not That! The Problem With Nots

imagesOne month after Julie and I were married (on March 5, 1993), we found out she was pregnant. Our amazing, talented, beautiful daughter Ruth came into the world on September 26th – three months premature.

We spent considerable time explaining the timing of this to people. I think we felt obligated to assure them that all was well and she in fact was premature (two pounds five ounces), and we were “safe.” I remember doing this quite a bit, and it was funny but also important.

Until we started explaining it to people who either didn’t get the joke or had had a child before they were married, or that was the cause of them getting married. Our cute joke wasn’t nearly as funny when we had to explain it or we were identifying why we we were NOT like “them.”

It took awhile for me to realize that no one cared. The real issue was that I wasn’t just fine with doing what I thought God had wanted me to do (save sex for after we were married). I wanted everyone to know that that had been my policy and that I had followed it. I didn’t want any misunderstanding. So obedience wasn’t enough – I wanted credit. This is the epitome of self-righteousness. I’m a Pharisee at heart.

Fast forward to 2014. It’s been a crazy summer. We’ve been working hard on City Presbyterian Church, and God has been blessing us so much. We’ve been growing, we bought a building, we moved in, and we finally passed this important step to be fully recognized by our denomination.

We’ve received so many compliments and it’s been amazing to receive them. A few weeks ago, our denomination (the Presbyterian Church in America or PCA) met for its yearly General Assembly, a national meeting of all the elders to handle church business and also hobnob with friends and have important fun schmoozing. We made some key decisions and the spirit of the whole shebang was really positive.

Somewhat coincidentally, two other Presbyterian denominations met at the same week. The Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) or PC(USA). Important decisions were made in those as well, but often they were ones that I personally disagree with. Some of them strike at the core of differences in beliefs and outlooks and visions for the future.

The was a considerable amount of scurrying among PCA people that we not get confused with “them.” Many were compelled to post and cry out, “We’re the conservatives. They’re the liberals! We wouldn’t do that! We’re different!”

I understand it. We want credit for our differences and our decisions. We don’t want to follow just God – we want everyone to know that we are following faithfully and they aren’t.

One of my hopes and prayers is so wild that I probably shouldn’t ever mention it, but I will. I pray that all the Presbyterians would eventually get back together. I’m not willing to do that under any and all circumstances, and I doubt it will happen, but it’s what I’d like to see.

The PC(USA) especially cannot stand the PCA. We’re arrogant and self-righteous. We’re also pretty insignificant but take ourselves way way way too seriously. We might be right, but no one wants to hear us say it all the time. I think we’d do far better to love our brothers and sisters and walk with them in friendship – which is tough to do when we point out how we’re not like them. It might even be good for us to be confused with them – and remember that really no one cares that much and it will be okay and we can be messed up and walk with Jesus and he’ll take care of it. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t stand up for the truth and what’s right. I’m saying – let’s do that and not feel like we have to tell everyone we’re doing it all the time. I might be contradicting that very thing in this post.

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