By Adam Faughn
Today, we are planning to enjoy a period of fellowship after our morning worship services with a potluck lunch. However, to also encourage us to be present for the "evening" worship service, we are going to go ahead and meet after the potluck, so our evening service will be at 1:30 pm. We hope this encourages more people to stay for both the meal and the worship service. We especially hope it encourages those of you who travel a good distance to worship each Sunday since you can just make one trip and then participate in the entire day.
I still remember the first time I heard a Sunday like this described as "church, eat, church." Now, of course, it has caught on, and that phrase is used quite often. In fact, in several places where I have spoken for Gospel Meetings over the last few years, it has been the norm. But as common as the phrase "church, eat, church" has become, it still sounds a little funny. It's catchy, and we know what it means, but it is still a little weird.
That said, not long ago, I heard the phrase "church, eat, church" somewhere, and it just hit me in a different way. Certainly, I knew what was being talked about, but my mind went in a totally different direction: the church doesn't need to "eat" the church.
Sometimes, we get frustrated with a fellow Christian. There might be a time when we disagree with a decision made by the elders (maybe even to have church, eat, church!). There could be a brother or sister in Christ who we feel has slighted us in the past, and we struggle to get along. Those things happen simply because we are people, and, as such, we are not always going to get things right.
When those things happen, however, I do not have the right to "eat" the church. In other words, I do not have the right to run down the Lord's Church before other people so as to weaken it.
We use this word picture in many other areas of life. For example, in a basketball game, one player drives toward the basket and makes a move that causes the defender to just look silly. You might hear the TV analyst say, "He just ate him up." What does that announcer mean by that word picture? The player making the move toward the basket embarrassed the opponent (and was proud to do so).
There should never be a time when any of that word picture is true of the Church. For one thing, we are not opponents! Even in times when we may disagree or be working through a problem, we are still God's family and need to remember that we are on the same team.
More to our point, though, we need to always remember there is just not an appropriate time to intentionally embarrass ("eat up") a fellow Christian. The only thing that should cause shame from one Christian to another is in the process of withdrawal of fellowship, and that should be exceedingly rare and for a very specific purpose. When we are dealing with regular slights or mistakes, there is never a time to embarrass our brother or sister in Christ. By the way, that is especially true when we consider that there is a "crowd" around us--a world that would love nothing more than to see the Church implode.
The New Testament regularly gives instruction about such topics as living in patience, being forgiving, and dealing one another in kindness. In a huge number of these places, the relationship under discussion is that of fellow Christians. We can safely say that God does not want the church eating the church! The question is, will I be careful to avoid doing just that? Will you?
"But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another." (Galatians 5:15)