Monday, 8 July 2013

Blogs and the nature of things

Several blogs ago I expressed my frustrations at what I perceived as the failure of the Church to express the love for one another that the New Testament teaches should be one of its primary 'marks' and instead had come to rely on the 'professional' to do it for them aka 'the Vicar'. Looking back at it in the light of some comments by a dear and faithful Christian I realise that writing it was perhaps not the wisest course of action for several reasons:
First, because it was written after a frustrating week when I had been the object of criticism about my lack of visiting. It is rarely a good idea to write in such circumstances because what comes out is not always reasoned or reasonable, but, by the nature of things rather aggressively defensive instead.
Secondly, flailing arms catch the innocent with the guilty and instead of pin-pointing the few tends to hurt the many. Sensitive and conscientious souls feel the heat when it is not them under the glare.
Third, looking at it again I realise that it was not a gracious piece of writing and tended to exaggerate the problems much in the same way that critics have exaggerated the number of complainants against me. A certain paranoia seems to set in sometimes in situations like this.

The question was asked me by the same lady mentioned earlier - and it's such a good question - what is the point of a blog? What is it for? Before being asked that question I would have said it was to inform, to ask and seek to answer questions I am wrestling with that may be of interest to others, or generally to touch on Christian topics and consider them. However the question stopped me dead in my tracks and in the light of the aforementioned blog I realised that maybe it had become a vehicle to express personal anguish, frustrations or disappointment with the Church or to vent anger at what I perceived as wrong or unjust.

But do I really want to write that sort of blog? A few reflections.
First, the answer is 'no' because that can reflect badly on the church I am pastoring even though many of my remarks are aimed at no one in particular but the church in general. So that kind of blog can lead to a case of mistaken identity and cause unnecessary hurt and anguish. It also reflects negatively on the church to those outsiders who may be considering joining it. It's hardly a good advert in that case. And besides I am happy with the way things are progressing and overall am encouraged seeing God at work.

On the other hand, and second, the answer can be a sort of tentative 'yes' but only in the sense that I find writing about the things that frustrate me etc cathartic and therapeutic. I do talk things over with my wife and confidante and her wisdom is often challenging and usually right (I can confess that here because she doesn't read my blog. Why would she when she can read me!) And I can - and do - offload these things onto God's broad 'shoulders' from time to time but sometimes writing things down gives me a chance to think about things more deeply and besides can act like a kind of journal of my spiritual life and the lessons I have hopefully learnt along the way.

However there is another side to this and therefore, third, the answer can be a more definite 'yes' because it's an honest - albeit not very flattering - expression of what I feel and what I think. I am not the finished article and my Christian journey is much like every other Christian in the sense that I fall and get up, fall and get up. My spiritual development is therefore three steps forward and sometimes two and a half steps back. Also perhaps by being honest I can encourage others to be the same and although my writing is not always gracious it can, by its nature, encourage grace in others as I found in the lady who came to see me.

But - and it's a big 'but' - I have decided to withdraw what I said because looking back at it again I have decided that it wasn't fair or entirely accurate and actually gave a rather distorted picture of a church which, like me, is not the finished article and which, like me, deserves grace and love not condemnation and criticism if it is to grow more like Jesus. In other words - and rather oddly - the article was not a reflection of the church but actually a reflection of me. Looking at it again I saw a picture of me, and the imperfections I was so keen to pick out were actually my own. In fact even as I write these words I hear Jesus whispering: ‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  (Matthew 7:3-4)

So to all those who read it and who felt I was having a go, I was, but not at you but rather at myself. As Jesus said: "Do not judge, or you too will be judged" (Matthew 7:1). I did, I have been, and I repent.

So please don't just read the blog but pray for me. I may be a Vicar but as you can see I am still far from perfect.

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