Fifty people came to our meeting about making a covenant last night. Joshua and I lead most of it. Nate got in there, too, even though he came with a fever and could barely talk! Everyone had to venture out over the treacherously icy roads to the church basement in Camden. Sean even found a way to get there by public transpo — he apologized for being late because he had to wait for one bus for twenty minutes in 28 degrees! I was heartened. It is encouraging to find out that we are still meeting people who I can expect to do unusual things as if they are normal. Ten of our cell leaders were there, bringing cell mates with them – they’ve been to the meeting before and they are going to lead other meetings this week, so you might think that is “beyond the call of duty.” One of them said, “The church is not in the meetings, it is a 24/7 reality.” One of them was upstairs caring for her cell mates’ children so they could enjoy the meeting! Amazing.
The group was even more amazing to me because I was comparing my attitude about church people like them to the attitude I discerned in several “higher up” church leaders I talked to during the conference I attended last week. I am still pondering one moment, in particular, because I felt like I shot my mouth off a bit too much. I was talking about the BIC doctrine about peacemaking, which is also stated in our list of ten “core values.” We say we are all about: “Pursuing Peace: We value all human life and promote forgiveness, understanding, reconciliation, and non-violent resolution of conflict”. It is not a radical statement, but it is in there among our top ten values. In the Articles of Faith and Doctrine we say: “Christ loved His enemies and He calls us as His disciples to love our enemies. We follow our Lord in being people of peace and reconciliation, called to suffer and not to fight. While respecting those who hold other interpretations, we believe that preparation for or participation in war is inconsistent with the teachings of Christ. Similarly, we reject all other acts of violence which devalue human life. Rather, we affirm active peacemaking, sacrificial service to others, as well as the pursuit of justice for the poor and the oppressed in the name of Christ.” That is pretty straightforward. Yet when I called on my leader to promote a “prophetic” expression of our stated doctrine, he publicly worried that others would not take too kindly to such aggressive behavior (whoever these “others” are, I don’t know). It seemed to me that he was managing for the lowest common denominator, or having a non-violent resolution to conflict by avoiding conflict altogether. I’m not sure why we would develop a subset of BIC leaders who would undermine our well-stated doctrine!
So it was encouraging to meet up with the next set of Circle of Hope (BIC) covenant-makers who are, basically, brave enough to do something that other people might assume is just too much to ask. I will always wonder, I guess, about what is the big deal about doing “my utmost for his highest.” It is such an honor to be sought and called by Jesus. It is not like He is asking too much of me when he gives me life and assumes I’d like to live it! I don’t think I am presumptuous at all when I assume he has impressed others the same way, and will keep seeking and calling more. Of course, it is easy not to think you’re being presumptuous when thirty more people than you expected pile into the basement.