The Apostles' Creed, which we recite now and then at worship gatherings to remember what we are subscribing to, starts out with the words "I believe," which covers everything that follows.
Toward the end of the recitation we affirm that we believe in the Church ("the holy catholic Church"). But truth be told, it is sometimes harder to believe in the Church than in the Trinity, the way we eat our own wounded.
The Church is supposed to be an alternate city to the world's cities, where eating your own is normal. We are supposedly that "city set on a hill" that is the shining prototype of the metropolis of the future depicted in Revelation, where everyone will accept everyone for the way he or she is. There will be no shunning, no cliques, no partiality, no festering bitterness or unforgiveness. This present life is meant to be practice for it. And we are meant to make substantial headway. It's not all about the "not yet."
Here is help from John 21. If we can keep it in mind, I think we will be able to love each other easily.
During a stroll on the beach, Jesus has just told Peter he will die by crucifixion. John is walking at a distance behind them, out of earshot, and Peter casts a backward glance and asks, "Lord, what about this man?" That's when Jesus says something helpful that, like many ultimately helpful things, is initially stinging: "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me" (v.22).
"What is that to you? You follow me" are the words that are going to help us love other people and be patient with them. C.S. Lewis' lion Aslan makes the same point: God shows you only your own story, not someone else's.
You have a story with God, with its own plot development, and recurring themes and tension points. No one knows your story like you and God know it. Sometimes other people, who see only five minutes of your story, get annoyed with you, and don't understand why you are the way you are. They fail to consider that they are catching you in the middle of your story and that God is working something out between the two of you that takes time to accomplish. God is taking you through the different experiences that you need to go through in order for the story to come out the way He wants it---namely, your becoming more like Jesus.
One day, when I was evidently more lucid than at other times, I happened to observe a gaggle of teenagers loitering and talking trash in the hotel parking lot in Ocean City, Md., where I was getting into my car. I was tempted to be a hater. I was ready to judge.
Then I said to myself: I don't know that kid's story. Maybe he's in the middle of something with God. Maybe if I come back to this hotel in 10 years, he will be giving his testimony in the large conference room about the days when he was a lost kid acting out before he bottomed out and cried out to the Lord and got saved.
To hear commentaries by Andrée Seu, click here.