“Pastor, your church is screwed up.” If any self-respecting professional counseling group did an inventory of John’s church (actually network of small groups), their report would be concise, clear and depressing. “There’s heresy, and many of your good members are passionately pursuing those who are propagating a vile philosophy. Plus, you have a leader in your churches that can’t stand you, John! I mean he doesn’t like you, or anyone who follows you. He’s actually thrown out members of his own church because they showed kindness to anyone you sent their way.”
After watching untold Jesus-followers die for the faith, an old battle-weary apostle now has to deal with a threat from within. It just isn’t fair, is it? By now John should have plenty in his IRA, his house paid off, his cars paid off, and his great grandkids joyfully by his side. Heck, he should have been to Disney World 10 times by now! Instead, he’s pastoring in an environment that is anything but serene.
God does not seem to care about our comfort. God doesn’t seem to be swayed by our long track record of faithfulness, as in, “It’s okay to kick back, rest, retire now.” God seemingly overlooks our age, our present pain, and our past experiences, when it comes to doing His work. He is not impressed. “Go…” And yet the very fact that God would choose to use a 90-year old pastor to rescue a quickly dying church brings me hope.
How did John have so much joy in the midst of such loss, pain, and challenge? He’s already happy, and now he writes so that his “joy may be complete.” We pastors, sure can complain, and yet pastor John, in the face of losing his beloved churches, simply wants the joy he has, to come to fruition.
I watched a church devolve into almost anarchy a few weeks ago. Gone was respect for the pastor. The joy the church once had was now like the fading last specks of sunlight dissipating behind the coming storm clouds of the west. False accusations, and “prophesies” were spoken from people who had no credible standing. As I watched this sad display of cowardice and contentious conjecture, my heart broke. I couldn’t help but reflect upon John’s situation. Somewhere in the midst of that cacophony was joy, a joy only someone like John could find.
How do we find joy when the world is collapsing all around us? How do we rejoice in hope when those who should be defending us, are attacking us?
“Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.” 2 John 3
We Christians, we followers of Christ should be a hardy group. We shall not succumb to the frailties of our fallen nature, but rise to the occasion when grace, mercy, and peace is needed, especially when it is in short supply all around us.