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Expectations are one thing while reality can sometimes be another. This was illustrated in a most disappointing way this past Sunday morning.

A lady who regularly attends the church services left her purse in her chair while she stepped out of the hall for a moment. Shortly after she left the premises later that morning, she realised that cash had been stolen out of her bag. Who would have thought that a thief would be among us as we gathered for Lord’s Day worship? The God who thundered the words, “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15) was ignored in his very presence. There is a lot we can learn from this sad episode. 

First, it is right to expect that when and where Christians gather is a place of safety. Paul exhorted those having been converted by God’s gospel to no longer steal but rather they are to labour in order to give to those who are in need (Ephesians 4:28). The church, in other words, is to be characterised by givers, not takers. Literally.

However, living in a fallen world means that the effects of the fall surround us on every front. I don’t know who pilfered the purse this past Sunday, but I am reminded that sin is ever present even among the gathering of God’s people. I’m assuming the best of our congregation and that the thief is an unbeliever. But this assumption can prove to be disappointing. Reading the New Testament epistles reminds us that church members are capable of doing some pretty horrible things (e.g. 1 Corinthians 5:1–2). The works of the flesh are both ugly and, sadly, not always uncommon among professing saints (Galatians 5:16–21). Yes, even Christian church members can disappoint us. And each of us equally has the ability to disappoint others. Therefore, knowing this, let us take ourselves in hand and abstain from the passions of the flesh that war against our souls (1 Peter 2:12). Those who do will keep their hands out of the purse of another.

Second, and related to the above, we must be alert to the reality that, as much as we desire to have a membership of faithful integrity, there is no guarantee against a Judas being among us. You will remember that Judas was a thief (John 12:6), and a “son of destruction” (John 17:12). In other words, he was not a believer who merely stumbled but rather a spiritual rebel merely pretending to be Jesus’ disciple. Humanly speaking, Jesus’ inner circle was not as safe as it should have been. So with the church.

BBC is careful about its membership process. Without apology, we hold to biblical expectations for each member. Our congregation expects church members to be and to livelike Christians. The expectation of biblical integrity is writ large before prospective members. But that doesn’t mean that false professions of faith will not occasionally slip in. Jesus, of course, expected this and hence his mandate of church discipline as a means of separating the true from the false (Matthew 18:15–20). When the congregation is called upon to fulfil its responsibility to excommunicate a member, we are being confronted with the disappointment that our assumption of the authenticity of one’s former profession of faith was perhaps wrong. But it also reminds each of us to examine ourselves as to whether we are truly in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).

The recent disappointing theft in our building reenforces our need to be diligent in protecting one another amid a sinful world. Though we want to assume the best of those who attend our gathering, at the same time we need to be aware of the presence of evil. So, let me suggest that you be careful to not leave valuables lying around unattended. And, speaking of valuables, the elders have undertaken to have cameras installed in all venues where our children are taught in Sunday school and Basic. We thoroughly trust our teachers, but we believe prudence calls for providing both children and parents with the assurance that the gathering of BBC is committed to ensuring a place of safety. We want to do all we can in order to alleviate disappointing assumptions.

Assuming the best while aware of the worst,

Doug

Doug Van Meter - 25 August 2022

Disappointing Assumptions

BBC Shorts

The recent disappointing theft in our building reenforces our need to be diligent in protecting one another amid a sinful world. Though we want to assume the best of those who attend our gathering, at the same time we need to be aware of the presence of evil.

From Series: "BBC Shorts"

Occasional pastoral thoughts from the elders of Brackenhurst Baptist Church.

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