Yesterday, I wrote about Pastor Joe Nelms and the pre-race prayer he offered in Nashville last Saturday. My goal was to consider whether Nelms’ offering constituted prayer, concluding that the true test of prayer is what’s in the heart.
Today, I received a story from a friend who returned to a church where she had, for years, been a member. The church had recently endured a divisive vote on the continuation of the pastor. She had returned to be part of a celebration at the church, but the celebration was dampened by an elderly, retired minister who was present.
At one point, the gentleman rose to speak. He expressed his opinion that those who had voted against the pastor were sheep who had gone astray. To emphasize his point, he started bleating at those present. Later, he passed my friend in the hallway and bleated at her.
Why, in the church of all places, does our obsession with being right drive us to cast away those who would disagree? What is it that makes us dig to find something in a person that we can despise just so that we can say, “See? I told you!”? Why do we read about some being cast into the outer darkness and assume that it’s our job?
Given my choice, I’ll take someone who publicly gives thanks for his “smokin’ hot wife” and who interjects “boogity, boogity, boogity” into his prayer. We will never know what was in Joe Nelms’ heart, but we were given space to believe he was sincerely grateful.
Sometimes it’s just better not to know.