I should have known the first sermon -- well, really the second -- I preached during my preaching class was a set up for God to teach me a lesson. And I should have known the test would come sooner than later. It came the next day -- that Saturday, Feb. 28.
The day before, during the 8 a.m. hour, I had just preached the sermon, "Check Yourself, Before You Wreck Someone Else" taken from the I Corinthians 8:1-13 text, which essentially challenges Christians who are farther along in their faith walk to live in such a way that it doesn't cause those who are "babes in Christ" to stray away from their faith. The text is a letter from Paul who uses the question regarding whether it is still appropriate for the members of the church at Corinth to eat the leftover meat that is used for sacrifices to idol gods as a larger lesson on moral behavior. In essence, the church is asking, "Can I still go hangout in these questionable places now that I have turned my life over to God and am no longer affected by what happens in these places? Don't I have the right to do that?"
In the letter Paul basically says that we do have the right to do what we want, but as a Christian must be mindful that our actions, while not harmful to us, could be harmful to someone who's faith foundation isn't as strong. The message is really a more comprehensive take on being "our brother's keeper". We are. And that's the bottom line.
So on that Saturday, I found myself wrestling with this revelation. Wrestling with the fact that I was asked to attend a function at a place that I knew was questionable and just not the proper environment for me to be in. Wrestling with this new role that God is prepping me for. Wrestling with the fact that what I do could cause someone to turn their back on God. Wrestling with the fact that I didn't want to disappoint my girlfriend and be seen as this "self-righteous", all holier than thou Jesus fanatic.
Wrestling with the fact that God is calling me to be a minister.
Sometimes the lesson has to be learned after the fact. After the experience. And so that was the case with me. I took the coward's way out and obliged my friend. I could have stood my ground, but didn't. I'm sure she would have understood. But maybe a small part of me didn't want to have to reflect on the fact that I am different. In Christian speak, they call it "set apart." I don't always like that phrasing -- it's loaded and carries much responsibility. It's the mirror image I don't always want to see. But I'm beginning to accept.
That night, it became much clearer that I do have to be mindful of how I walk and where I'm walking. Even the people in the place knew I didn't belong there. They may not have know the why's behind it, but they knew it wasn't my scene. Normally when I'm in places where I shouldn't be, God tells me, "You don't belong here." God didn't do that this time. Didn't have to. I knew before I left, before my car rolled in the parking lot, before I stepped in the place, that I was in the wrong place.
And after I left, I knew I would have to take a stand for what I know is right for me. As I heard a minister say earlier that day, "There comes a day that it's undeniable who God called you to be."
She's right, cause on Friday, he called me to remember that I am my brother's keeper.