the manspreader

Read:  Ephesians 4:1-16

Reflect: I was sitting in the sanctuary next to a gentleman who was a “manspreader”: a large man who not only sits in his own seat but spreads out to the seats on either side of him. I ended up occupying only half of my seat trying to get away from his expanse. At the same time, he was continuously tapping, scrooching around, and looking at his phone.  He didn’t know how to quiet his body or his soul.  I was not feeling well and I wanted to scream, “For goodness’s sake, just sit still!”  God then took me down several notches.  The Holy Spirit reminded me that I didn’t know this guy at all, didn’t know his circumstances, didn’t know what he was dealing with and didn’t know where he was spiritually.  I was clueless, but God knew.  God knew what He was doing when He sat the gentleman next to me. 

EVEN THE HEALTHIEST BODIES HAVE STRANGE TICKS

I think Scott Hubbard says it well when he writes: “Even the healthiest bodies have strange ticks and unseemly features: an unusual tapping of the foot, a frustrating tone of the voice. In fact, if our church body does not regularly try our patience and oppose our preferences, then we may not be close enough to our church body.”  God was not prioritizing my personal comfort that Sunday. God was asking me to prioritize the needs of an individual I didn’t know.  Maybe I missed concentrating on Pastor Mike’s major points in his sermon, but I spent a lot of time praying for the brother next to me and also for my attitude. I had to listen to the word of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4: Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.

THE BODY OF CHRIST CAN BE PAINFUL

The Body of Christ can be painful.  Hubbard also writes, “We may, at times, find ourselves so vexed by our brothers and sisters, or perhaps so deeply grieved by them, that unity will come only at the cost of painful conversations, and humbling confessions, and extended conflict resolution. Daily patience, daily bearing, daily maintaining — this is the everyday life of God’s glorious church. And it’s enough to disillusion even the most realistic among us.”

PAYING THE PRICE OF PAINFUL CONVERSATIONS

The road to unity is humbling.  It is not the attitude, “If I don’t like them, I’ll just cut and run.  I’ll teach them a lesson.”  Very few times have I seen any lessons been taught because the fly in the ointment has departed.  We are not talking about major doctrinal conflicts, things that are of eternal significance.  We are talking about the minor things, the things that niggle away at us.  Those issues that build up inside of us until they explode like a pressure cooker because we have not paid the price of making those “painful conversations, and humbling confessions, and extended conflict resolution.”

JUST AS THEY ARE DIFFERENT FROM ME, I AM DIFFERENT FROM THEM

Most of us have valued our own personal opinions and run across believers who are different. It’s just hard to understand them.  The Apostle Paul tells us to “[bear] with one another in love”. I know that many times I have felt burdensome to others.  I have been considered odd and have been misunderstood. Just as they are different from me, I am different than them.  However, the main point is, if not for the love of Christ, I wouldn’t be surrounded by these lovely brothers and sisters.  I could not find unity except for Christ.  I couldn’t pray for that brother who couldn’t sit still next to me. 

LESS OF ME AND MORE OF CHRIST

I bend my knees and pray along with Paul for believers, that we would “all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become matureattaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”  So, may I be less me and see more of Christ.  May I pay the price of painful conversations, and humbling confessions, and extended conflict resolution.  God’s purpose is way more important than my own desires, even when I’m sitting next to the manspreader.

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