The neighbors twenty yards away were a small family, a man, his wife, and two little boys, the older about 7 or 8, and the younger just barely past the toddler years. This was obviously a planned family outing, one that probably didn’t happen very often but that the parents were determined to make a good experience. They did everything in a planned and almost regimented fashion. “It’s time to light the fire.” “Now it’s time to tell ghost stories.” “Now it’s time to roast marshmallows.” In between all this, the mother was on her cell phone every hour or so, sometimes for as long as a half hour, seeing to her business.
And both parents became impatient at the drop of a hat. If the boys didn’t react to every activity as they thought they should, they became frustrated and almost angry. (Who should be surprised if a ghost story terrified a four year old?) They had mistaken the stereotype of a camping trip for the spontaneous fun of the real thing. They had probably fallen for that “quality time” myth.
And because we can’t seem to stop helping out, we offered them a few things, like some lighter wood to help get those campfires going more easily, and we occasionally stopped by on the way back and forth from the bathhouse, to talk and reminisce with them about the times when our two boys were that age. They seemed appreciative, especially the father, who, we discovered when we got closer, was about 20 years older than the usual father of boys that age, and quite a few years older than the mother.
As we talked we noticed that the older boy always wore Baylor tee shirts and sweat shirts and had a Baylor hat, so Keith talked to him some about football and asked how Baylor was doing. The father sighed and said, “He doesn’t know anything about Baylor football. He just likes the color green.”
They left after just a weekend, and it sounded like they were leaving one night early, perhaps disappointed that this hadn’t turned out quite like they had expected.
You can learn a lot yourselves, just considering this family. It’s always easier to judge from a distance. But that little boy can teach us all something today. Why is it that you assemble where you do? Why did you choose that place?
We would all understand the fallacy of going to the handiest place, regardless what they taught. But how about this: Do you go where you are needed, or to the place considered the most popular in the area, the most sociable, the one where you wouldn’t mind having people see you standing outside hobnobbing? Do you go where the work is hard or where the singing is good? Do you go where the preaching is entertaining or where the teaching is scriptural and plain? Do you go expecting the church to do for you, or because you want to do for them?
Too many Christians look upon a church in a proprietary way, as if they had the right to judge everything about it and everyone in it, especially the superficial things—the singing, the preaching, the way the people dress and their occupations and connections in the world. The way some people choose congregations, they might as well go because they like the color green.
The church belongs to Christ, that’s what “church of Christ” means. It belongs to God, that’s what “church of God” means. Christ’s church is there to give me an outlet for my service and a source of encouragement toward doing that service. It is not there to serve me and my preferences.
Someday that little boy will grow up and learn to examine the football programs he roots for, choosing them for their character and integrity instead of their colors. Maybe it’s time we grew up with him.
Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Pet 4:9-13