When it goes well…

I have long known that the book of Proverbs is filled with wonderful, wise sayings. I mean, isn’t that what you would expect from a book titled “Proverbs”? But this afternoon, as I sit in the car waiting for my daughter to emerge from her school, I ran across an interesting verse in Proverbs 11. There, while espousing the benefits of righteousness, Solomon declares to his son in verse 10, “When the righteous thrive, a city rejoices, and when the wicked die, there is joyful shouting” (HCSB). Now, it seems obvious that people celebrate when good things happen to good people – and bad things happen to bad people – but I want to take just a moment to contemplate the first half of this statement. You see, in my city, as in many across the nation, it is far more common to hear people complain about churches than to rejoice, even when something good happens.

Why is that?

I hate to say this, but I suspect the answer is that too many churches have fallen into disrepute. Because they were not quite – or even, anything but – righteous.

I wonder, though, what would happen if a church resolved to be, as the Amplified Version describes it here, “uncompromisingly righteous.” What would a church like that look like? Well, I can’t help but think that the answer is found in Matthew 25, where Jesus describes the sheep (aka, the righteous) as having fed the hungry, given drink to the thirsty, sheltered the stranger, clothed the naked, tended the sick, and visited the imprisoned with no ulterior motives (e.g., you need to come to my church now), no second thoughts (e.g., reservations or qualifications), and absolute humility (e.g., no expectation of reward).

I wonder, also, what it would take to build a church like that. And I think that the answer to that is even more obvious than the answer to the first question: to build a church like that will require individual believers who live like that, feeding the hungry, etc.

And then I wonder, lastly, what the celebration would look like. Sadly, I doubt that there will be actual street celebrations. But maybe there would be at least a few who would respond to the comments on the local media websites calling for churches to pay taxes, denigrating local congregations, suing to stop churches from partnering with public entities, and more.

Recently, while attending a conference, I heard Pastor Vern Streeter make a comment that resonated. He said that our churches should operate in such a way that even the most ardent opponent of Christianity would be bummed if we shut our doors. I like that, but I am compelled to recognize that, for that to happen, it’s going to require a whole bunch of Christians who will operate that way.

And then it occurs to me that maybe, just maybe, the whole reason that this world seems as joyless as it so often does is because there aren’t enough believers taking the advice of Solomon here in Proverbs 11. “When the righteous thrive, a city rejoices.” Bringing joy to the city starts with me being righteous.

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