Monday, October 26, 2009

There's a speck and a plank!

Marissa and Suzanne had known one another for most of their lives. They met in church when Marissa was still in elementary school. The girls were both a part of the youth choir that included talented kids of all ages. Suzanne was already in high school, so they weren't part of the same social groups, but Marissa loved being around "the big kids".

Life took Marissa and Suzanne in completely different directions. Suzanne got married and spent several years traveling the world with a Christian Music touring group, and Marissa went off to college. After Suzanne's marriage ended in divorce, she returned home and the two girls reconnected. They were both part of the church choir, had the same circle of friends, and discovered just how much they had in common. When finances became tight, it was only natural that the best friends would get an apartment together. They settled into a fairly typical single girl life - work, church, friends, weekends, dating, etc... Then....

Maybe it was the pain of Suzanne's divorce, I don't know, but she really wasn't into the dating scene at all. Marissa, on the other hand, had always dreamed of one day meeting "that guy" and getting married. She thought "Rick" might be that guy, but after about a year the relationship ended and Marissa was heart-broken. Suzanne's friendship carried her through. Finally, Suzanne made a confession - she was in love with Marissa. Marissa didn't know what to do with this information. They were both active in the church and Marissa knew that homosexuality was considered sin. The last thing she wanted to do was to tarnish Suzanne's reputation, so she kept this revelation to herself. Marissa moved out of the apartment the girls shared and she went about trying to move on with her life. It wasn't easy for a 30-something year-old girl to meet guys, but the Internet offered some interesting dating sites, so Marissa put herself out there. She met a guy.

I can't pretend to know what was in Suzanne's heart or mind, but I do know what she did. When she found out that Marissa was dating, she went to the church choir director and told him that Suzanne had met a guy online and she was involved in an inappropriate relationship. The choir director moved quickly. He called Suzanne and kicked her out of the choir and off the worship team for "not living a life above reproach". Marissa swears she hasn't "sinned" with the new boyfriend, but she's not believed. She's forced to leave the choir she'd been a part of for 20 years, and the church she'd been a member of for her whole life. She loses her circle of friends. One of these so-called "friends" sent her a card. When Marissa opened the card she was so touched, as on the outside of the card it said, "Thinking of You". On the inside, however, it had a hand written note that said, "When you decide to start making the right choices, we will welcome you back."

It's been several years and Marissa has never really recovered. She doesn't attend church, and she protects herself from relationships as she still has trust issues. What was Suzanne's motivation for taking gossip and lies to the music pastor? What was the pastor's motivation for removing Marissa without ever taking steps to discover the whole truth? Only they know what they were thinking. I do know that if Suzanne suspected Marissa was in an "inappropriate relationship" she should have followed the Matthew 18 principle for confrontation and reconciliation. I also know that Matthew 7:5 tells us that we are hypocrites when we are more worried about the speck in another person's eye, then the removal of the plank in our own eye.

We need to get off the pew and reach out to friends and family who are “living in sin”, or making “inappropriate choices”. God loves them, and we ought to love them too! If you know someone who’s been kicked out of church or a ministry because of their own bad choices (or suspected bad choices), get off the pew and love on them. Loneliness is a sad place to live, even though it has a crazy large population. In addition, there may be a "Suzanne" sitting in the pew next to you - someone who is hiding a secret. Get off the pew! Reach out!

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