Jonathan Edwards made a resolution that he would live in such a way hat when he looked back on his life when he was old, he would have no regrets. There would not be a sense of wishing he had done something that he had the chance to do, but never did. I, sadly, do have regrets.
I regret not attending some of the weddings of my brothers and sisters. I was newly a Christian at the time of some of them and deeply disapproved of the chosen lifestyles and choices of husbands/wives. I was brash enough to think that I was right and they were wrong. I didn’t go to the weddings because…if you have seen the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, the scene quite near the end where Catherine de Boer and her daughter keep away from the wedding of Darcy and Elizabeth – well, that disapproving look says it all. That was me! I cut my nose off to spite my face and it didn’t change anything!
I would like to think that I am different now. I am less harsh and down-the-line, hopefully more generous. When a friend of ours invited us along to the Mormon Church to witness her baptism, Joe and I chose to go. The Mormon Church and I have a bitter history. While I was asking Jesus to be Lord of my life, my sister was becoming a member of the Mormon Church. At the time I visited her determined to “set her right” and push her onto right path. Things did not work out that well and we didn’t speak for a while afterwards! Looking back over the years, I still cannot see that her faith has enhanced her life – but that is another story!
I guess I must have had an invisible sign hovering over me – the body language speaking very clearly – “Don’t even attempt to witness to me!” No one approached, except in the most friendly and inoffensive manner. I know our friend was delighted to see us.
I have rarely felt so uncomfortable in a place or worship. Part of it was probably the baggage of attitude that I brought with me, but seriously, I never felt the presence of God. I don’t really know enough about Mormonism to pick holes in their theology. I just know that they have some very different views from mainstream Christians. The people were nice, but, for me, the Spirit of God wasn’t there. The reality of a life producing faith just wasn’t there. Not for me, anyway.
The service lasted about an hour. It was very serious and …I am trying not to say the word “dull” but that comes to mind. A small choir of men sang a wonderful hymn “The Lord is my Shepherd”. Maybe it is the worship leader in me but it wasn’t exuberant enough. Such wonderful words needed heart and soul and spirit. I wanted to say “Is He really your shepherd? If He is then why aren’t you exploding with joy?”
Part of the service included watching a DVD called “The Witnesses” – fifteen witnesses to the truth they had found in Mormonism. They thankfully stopped at number five. Ninety percent of what they were saying, I could go along with – but the ten percent of other stuff was not scriptural. Joe said afterwards that for him that kind of “church” is the most dangerous kind. There is so much truth that the error sneaks in. It is like getting someone to eat an unpleasant tasting tablet by sticking it in a banana! The banana is easy to digest, but you don’t notice the tablet. Tiny though the error might be, it infects the rest of the truth, twisting it to something it is not supposed to be. We are all susceptible to twisting the truth, but the Bible acts as a plumb-line, and the prompting of the Spirit keep us from error.
I felt really sad was that our friend had been unable to find her answers in our church. She had been a member of our church for a while many years ago. I felt sad that we had not managed to meet her needs – we failed to be the body that she needed. Actually, the problem might not lie with us. Just because you are being the right kind of body, does not mean that people wish to fit themselves into it.
Incidentally – to go back to places of worship where I have felt at home – amazingly enough – one such place was actually a Muslim mosque! Just a few miles away from the airport at Larnaca, in Cyprus, there is a small mosque. It is on the edge of a salt lake. It is surrounded by trees. Inside it is just one big empty space with carpets. I felt the presence of God there so strongly. It may have been just the silence and the peace of the place, but I felt close to God there.