During Lent, I’ve been leading a study I called “Doubters Anonymous” which was set up to give those with questions about our faith a place to express them openly and without condemnation. I had no idea what would happen when we began this. I planned to simply let it unfold.
What we ended up doing was examining this scenario: a pastor (married), runs off with the choir director (married), both divorce their spouses and then marry each other. Church left devastated in their wake. Several years later, the former pastor and choir director return to the church and request to become again a part of that worshipping community (not necessarily in leadership positions). Former spouses still in that community.
Week after week, we worked out way around this, coming at it from multiple angles, wrestling with what we all see as the core of the Christian message: forgiveness and reconciliation with God and with each other. We kept asking: what does forgiveness mean in a situation like this? How will we know if someone has truly repented? Do we forgive without the truth of the actions being spoken and the enormous amount of pain acknowledged? Are there further repercussions for their actions? What does God do with us when God forgives? Can God forgive without a person actually acknowledging the need for forgiveness? Spectacular questions, leading to powerful discussions.
Last week, I had asked each one to approach it from a different faith perspective: Buddhist, Hindu, Confucianism, Muslim, Atheist, and a couple of others. Last night, we were rejoined by one of our members who had been absent last week, so I asked her to speak from her former affiliation: Jehovah Witness.
This woman spent many years away from church after extricating herself from the Witnesses. She started attending services somewhat regularly with us last fall.
She spoke, “You preached about kindness being the center of our faith. It would simply not be kind for the two of them to enter that congregation where their former spouses were. We should tell them that we forgive them, love them, and encourage them, in the name of kindness to those whom they have hurt, to go elsewhere.”
The sermon she referenced had been based on Micah 6:8: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
In all honesty, I don’t remember what I said. Like many pastors, when I finish one message, I’m immediately moving onto the next one. When she said these words, I looked at her with my mouth open. It must have been last fall when I used that passage–perhaps in Advent but probably before that. I just don’t remember. But what I had said clearly stuck, worked its way through her mind, and came out with a solution that made beautiful sense.
She touched me in a tender part of my soul and helped me to find light where I had been wandering in a dark place.
I just loved it: the taught one teaching the teacher. This is the very best of the community of Christ.
Thanks be to God.