A few people seem to have the same opinion about themselves and the church. The only reason God instituted a church is to pander to their every need. It seldom seems to cross their minds that other people have needs as well, and that those needs may be even more critical than theirs. Chloe wouldn’t care if the house were on fire if she saw us running outside. She would still scamper up, plop herself on the ground and roll over—isn’t that why we came outside, to scratch her belly? A Christian who thinks he is the center of the universe is behaving the same way.
Others think the only reason God put them in the church was for the church to listen to them. They never ask a question in a Bible class, or offer a comment to stimulate discussion and deep thinking. Instead they have all the answers and are happy to tell you exactly how things ought to be done, even things that are not specifically spelled out in the scriptures. They know best. It amazes me when these are people new to a congregation, who don’t yet know the background and experiences of the people they are trying to advise, often including elders, or who are in their mid-twenties with little life experience behind them. Kind of reminds me of Chloe who thinks a belly rub is appropriate any time of day, any place, even while you are trying to shoot a rattlesnake that she obviously has not seen. But she knows best, Boss!
Then there are the ones who think their feelings, or the feelings of a family member, are all that count. The church is supposed to pussyfoot around and never offer exhortation or criticism that might “offend” by our definition of the word. They think they are put here to be stroked and petted and “have their belly rubbed” regardless of what might be happening to their souls. Reminds me of that passage about people “whose god is their belly”—nothing matters at the moment but how they feel. I am not about to let Chloe roll over on her back in the middle of a garden row I have just planted that is supposed to help feed us this year, no matter how much it hurts her feelings for me to tell her, “No!” Some things are more important than her feelings, and if she were my child instead of my dog, I would explain that to her rather than let her do as she pleased and cost us a few hundred dollars worth of groceries.
So what do you do about people like that? You do the same thing the Lord did for you when you were still that immature and selfish. You tolerate, you teach, you show them a better way with the example of your own service and willingness to accept abuse or take on responsibilities that are not yours but that you do because they need doing and you are there. You love them in a way they don’t deserve and yes, you rebuke when necessary and hope they won’t act childishly and run off to play somewhere else, where everyone will scratch the belly they offer, and let them be the only ones who matter and the only ones worth listening to.
The Lord did all that for us, and he expects us to do it for them. Some day maybe they will learn to be better than a silly little dog who thinks the world is here to scratch her belly. Didn’t you?
And we exhort you, brethren, admonish the disorderly, encourage the fainthearted, support the weak, be longsuffering toward all. 1Thes 5:14