The glow of Sunday gatherings and joys had not yet faded late that evening. One of our newer attenders had written a response to the service on Sunday morning that her Lenten journey was very difficult, and had already produced fruits of joy. She has a background that would make you weep, and is no less a miracle witnessing to Jesus' touch than any person delivered by him in scripture stories. She text messaged me with a desperate request: "How do I respond to my [neighbor] who sent me this message?"
Her well meaning Christian friend had told her that she should not follow a Lenten fast. That her church didn't do that because it is only a tradition of men. Christ has set us free from those things, she said. She continued by saying that her church follows the Holy Spirit and his leading instead. And that they fast periodically only as he instructs them as individuals.
The hurting woman from my church (who is plagued by self-doubt and feelings of failure) was already well down the path of deciding that the blessing and gifts she was receiving via her fast were artificial. That it wasn't God blessing her. That our church was not Christian.
I asked her to tell her friend that we are trying as a church to obey a call I sensed for us as a congregation to pray and fast together. I want her to tell this sister of ours thank you for the concern, and to ask her to pray for us as we seek to become more sensitive to God's voice.
Yet in the back of my head there is an echo of a voice long ago that pursued our lord in the desert saying, "IF you are the son of God..."
How often do we in the church condemn other traditions, and belittle their attempts at following the only wise and eternal One? How often are we the voice of the devil?
And even as I condemn the judgmental ways of another, am I practicing the vice?
Lord have mercy.