Comedians have a special kind of problem when they perform. There are people, who, having imbibed enough adult beverages, think that they are funnier than the comedian and make a point of letting the comedian and the audience know that. Every good comedian knows how to handle hecklers and it’s always interesting to hear the different methods they use. Unfortunately, most of the language and insinuations prevent me from sharing any examples that I found here, but you’ve probably seen or heard about the way comedians have handled hecklers. If you are ever tempted to be a heckler, have no doubt about this: the phrase “Leave it to the professionals” should come to mind and stop you.
There are people who are “hecklers” in the church world. Oh, perhaps they don’t disrupt the worship service, but they find other ways to keep the church from moving forward. Their favorite words are “We’ve never done it that way before.” They tell others how wrong they are when the others are trying to accomplish something, yet never get involved in the work themselves. They have lots of good excuses for their lack of involvement, but they think that those who are involved should never be excused. Lest we think such people are new to church life, Paul dealt with them in the early days of the church. “And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14)
The old aphorism that the church should “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted” is probably based on this verse. Comfortable people often they feel like since their issues are taken care of, they can try to work on the issues of other people. They become disruptive and bossy. From the comfort of my own home I can castigate any politician I want to. Were I to meet one in person, I probably wouldn’t be so comfortable. Looking at things from a biblical perspective, I shouldn’t be castigating so much as praying for them. In the same way, many people in the church often make disruptive statements away from the pastor, but are willing to point out his mistakes to other people. Here’s where we, the church, need to step up. We need to warn those people about their disruptive behavior and the cost to the church. We need to turn the disruptive statements into active prayer for the pastor and the church.
Sometimes, disruptive comments can discourage people who are actually working in the church. Paul reminds us to encourage those who are disheartened. If your church is like most churches, you won’t see a lot of the disheartened. They’ll smile at you on Sunday mornings and tell you that everything’s ok. They won’t tell you about the problems they have working in the church, the problems they have at work, or problems in relationships at home. Most of us who are disheartened could tell you intellectually why the Bible says we shouldn’t be disheartened, but those emotions hit just the same. Then the shame hits and we don’t want people to know about the discouragement. I am weak in this area. What I need is for someone to be patient with me and love me anyway. That is exactly the command that Paul gives. What’s really cool about this is that he doesn’t ask the “spiritual giants” to take on this task; he asks all the brothers and sisters to do that. When I am discouraged, I can still encourage others. When I am weak, I can still help the weak. When I need others to be patient with me, I can show patience to others. God doesn’t seek perfect people to use. God perfects imperfect people who allow Him to use them to show His grace to others.
Lord God, I am grateful that when I am at my weakest, Your love for me is at its strongest. Use me to love others who are discouraged and weak. Let me show patience every day.