01 Feb 2003

Wearing Church Masks

Most people in church circles appear either happy and self-sufficient, or rather bored and overworked. Parents have secure jobs, no financial problems and attend Sunday services fairly regularly so as not to be missed, especially in large city churches.

Their children attend school and Sunday school faithfully and behave in an orderly fashion whenever we meet them. Everyone and everything seems fine. Therefore, when we do not see them, we assume that they are probably having a holiday somewhere else. However, an occasional view of their inner struggles will break our hearts if we really care as Jesus cares.

Case 1
The family is in deep financial waters. Mr. Lim has also been unfaithful. Mrs. Lim, burdened with daily needs, has not noticed the changes in his behaviour and attitude. Their children show signs of restlessness. At a time of urgent need, Mr. and Mrs. Lim had borrowed from loan sharks as this middle-age couple was too ashame to share their problems with fellow church members. Now they cannot even pay the interest, let alone the capital owed to the money-hungry moneylenders. They live in fear of being hunted down by their creditors. What should be their next move? To hide or to reveal their needs and weaknesses to the church? Would their richer brethren understand their struggles anyway? Perhaps they would be despised for being careless with their finances. Mr. Lim also fears rejection by Christian friends if they should discover his extramarital affair, even though he recognises his sin and wishes that someone would help him get out of his situation.

Case 2
The Ting family has a child who is autistic. His condition was discovered only when he experienced relational problems with friends in school. Each time Mrs. Ting watches other Sunday school children playing independently and freely, she weeps in her heart. Why has God allowed such a perplexity to surface in their once joyful family life?

“Father, surely You did not place us in church families for no good reason, for You are the God of peace and order, of wholeness and of grace. Help us to so open our hearts to one another that we may comfort each other with the same comfort with which You have comforted us. You do not want us to live double lives. Surely You want us to say what we mean and mean what we say. By Your grace, we will be gracious nurturers of Your children. Finally, Your people will become more and more beautiful as Jesus’ Bride-to-be: forgiven, cleansed, healed and vibrantly living for You! Having thought this over for a while, Father, perhaps You may have to start this process of becoming vulnerable to me…make me willing, Father, I plead.

For Meditation and Prayer:
Luke 4:18-19, 2Corinthians 1:3-5