13: Doing good–to everybody? – Thought Starters

Timothy loved the trumpet. By the time he turned fourteen he could play scales in all the keys and challenging exercises. He even presented “special music” for church. During secondary school Timothy listened carefully to all the trumpet music he could get his hands on and taught himself to slur notes, to manage extreme vibrato, to “jump” the rhythm, and to come up with shrill as well as mellow tones to add more feeling to his music. He was ready for a band.1

And a band was waiting for him. Before long Timothy was spending two or three evenings a week in a shack practicing with guys his age with an electric bass guitar, a regular electronic guitar, and a drum set. They called themselves the “Shack Band” and began picking up gigs at local events. But it was the trumpet, ringing high and true through the array of notes that stole the scene.

Years later and hundreds of miles away Timothy was out of school, married, the father of a baby daughter, working as a computer technician. And a member of the local Seventh-day Adventist church. The church needed a music director and since Timothy had a strong baritone voice, he would certainly be a good choir director. And wouldn’t it be great to have a band in the church? Well, maybe not a band, but an orchestra.

Timothy said Sure, he’d be glad to take a stab at directing the music at the church.

At first Timothy was very careful about the type of music he recommended for the church. He stuck to pieces in the church hymnal, classic pieces with at least a hundred years of credibility, and some of the less active tunes from contemporary songbooks used by the younger members of the church. He worked closely with the organist to be sure all the music for the church service merged well together.

As time went on Timothy began to exercise a little more freedom in the way he executed his pieces. One by one he brought in the members of the community to supplement his trumpet solos. The bass guitar was easy. Nobody objected to that deep pulsating musical boom-boom-boom pounding from the speakers. The drums; well, that was a different story. When Timothy’s friend Bruno maneuvered the drum set onto the platform in front of the church, Timothy thought he heard a gasp from the congregation. “Down, down,” he whispered to Bruno. “Down as soft as you can go.”

The next thing Timothy knew he was the subject of an item at a meeting of the church board, which he always attended as a member. He was asked to leave the room.

A few minutes later a board member came out and tapped Timothy on the shoulder. “You can go home now,” the board member said. “We don’t need you for the rest of the meeting.”

At church the next week Timothy picked up a bulletin and noticed an announcement stating the action of the church board to select a music director. Nothing was said about Timothy Stratton in the report. The pastor, the head of the nominating committee, the chairman of the church board—nobody had anything to say to Timothy.

A few weeks later the Stratton family moved away, and Timothy found another job in computer services.

[Thought questions for The Gospel and the Church December 21,2011]

1. The mistaken member. Has your church ever had to deal with a member or group of members who seemed to have gone too far in secularizing their role? Can we tolerate sinners as leaders within our church? In the story above, wasn’t Timothy going beyond boundaries set by his church? Didn’t he deserve to be censured? How does Paul teach that we should treat the “fallen” member? How do we restore a member who has violated church standards and done so in a public way that could bring discredit to the church? If we can’t tolerate sin, how can we tolerate the sinner? Do you think there is room for improvement in the way we as church members deal with those who stumble and fall? If you do, what are you planning to do to help bring out this improvement?

2. Sin by surprise. If sin is the deliberate violation of God’s law, how can we be surprised into sinning? Or can we? Have you ever been shocked with dismay when you realized what you had just done or said? Do you think that as Christians we should spend less time or more time thinking about our sins and trying by the grace of God to get rid of them? Have you ever known a self-righteous person? What was it about that person that helped you identify his or her self-righteousness? What is so wrong about being self-righteous?

3. Bearing burdens. Do we as believers have an obligation to know the burdens that cause our fellow believers suffering and agony? Should we make it our business to find out? What’s wrong with letting people figure out solutions to their own problems? Does the Holy Spirit play a role in helping us determine the burdens we can lift for others? Do you ever pray for God to show you someone who needs encouragement? If you do, does He seem to answer that prayer (A) right away; (B) before long; (C) eventually; (D) never. I am proud of the way ADRA and other church organizations reach people in desperate need. Are you? This is a personal question, so don’t answer it, but what are you doing to support church-supported organizations established to benefit the deprived? What about hungry and needy folks close to home?

4. The law of Christ. Ah, there we have it. Jesus showed us the true law, right? Isn’t the law of Christ the law of love that Jesus Christ showed us? So we don’t have to worry about that law of the Old Testament, do we? Can’t we just ignore that quaint precept known as the fourth commandment? Hold it. What is the law of Christ, really? What does the law written in Exodus tell us about God? Can we learn about God without learning about love? Does God love His people now more than He did the ones who followed Him thousands of years ago? Are you glad for the privilege of being led by the law of God? How can you show that gladness?

5. Mocking God. Why would anyone dare to mock God? Do you think poking fun of or ignoring God’s prophets and messengers is a form of mocking God? Why or why not? What about your pastor? Does he deserve a measure of respect and honor even if he’s not terribly adept as a pastor? Why or why not? What are some other ways can we mock God while we belong to a Bible-believing church and claim to follow God’s commands?

6. Doing good to all and to the family. Why do you think Paul closes the first section of Galatians 6 with an appeal for believers to be especially kind to fellow believers? Don’t we naturally protect each other? Why do we need special admonition there? What about “all people?” Is Paul telling us we should do good things to “all people” but reserve the very best things for “the family of believers?” Can you think of an example of doing good to other believers in your church? Share it. Which is easier—meeting the needs of church members or reaching out to all people? Should every believer try equally hard to minister to the family of believers and all people?

  1. Joseph in the pit Image © Jeff Preston from GoodSalt.com

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