Complainers bug me. I mean, they really irritate me. Especially the cynics. And I guess it’s a bit hypocritical here to be complaining about complainers.
I am not referring to people who have real pain in their life, making real sacrifices. I’m not referring to people demanding justice for a poor living situation that is not acceptable. Nor am I referring to people who have legitimate reasons for deep-seated hurts and disappointments.
I am also not referring to voices of discontent. I am not referring to real issues of frustrations about which people are afraid to speak out because they feel like a minority and might get stomped. I am not referring to situations where real change needs to happen because the system is broken.
Things could always be better. Always. Things could always improve. Constructive criticism is extremely helpful, even though listening to those voices can be really hard sometimes. But that’s not what I’m referring to here.
I am, however, referring to people who complain for complaining’s sake. Who are upset because “their” expectations were not met. And, let’s face it, some people have very high expectations.
I am a logistics person. The thing about people running logistics is that you never see them. The only time you do “see” them is when something goes wrong. But when, for example, someone puts together a Congress of truly global proportions, you can imagine the logistical circus that took place for all that to come together. And then to hear people complaining about the flow of things, the logistics of things, how this kind of person wasn’t represented- you want to say, “if you really think you could do such a better job, YOU do it.” But, you don’t say that. You try to maintain humility by remaining professional and biting your tongue. And digging your fingernails in your palms to keep from screaming out. Listening to people who express tension with things you have worked so hard on in disconcerting. It doesn’t feel very edifying.
In Cape Town I overheard situations where people were complaining. Not everybody, mind you, but some. Complaining that they weren’t fairly represented on the stage, or the fact that the “whole church” wasn’t there, or over issues of race, gender, theology, etc. Some complained that they didn’t have much time for discussion. Others complained that only English was spoken on the stage (never mind the interpreters having to interpret in 7 main languages the entire Congress- and the common language among those interpreters was English). Several complained that so-and-so’s message wasn’t as dazzling as they would have liked. Some wanted to voice their complaints in an official forum right after the final Holy Communion in the closing ceremony. There were thousands in that room that night with whom I joined who were having very signifiant moments with God that will probably resonate with them for the rest of their lives- to hear those complaints would have been damaging. One person described the closing ceremony as something out of Disneyland. And I kept thinking, really?!?!
And it just made me sad. Sure, there were issues that I saw in the Congress that could have been better. I tried to think about things critically and exercise discernment. I wasn’t completely naive about things that went down, touched by human nature. I think we keep forgetting, however, that we are all still human, broken as we are. And yet, God allows us broken people to come together and bring this many people together in the same room at the same table to, first of all, celebrate what God is doing around the world and to, second of all, figure out ways we can partner together and do evangelism and discipleship better. But, we still live in a broken world, which means systems and programs and leaders are not perfect. No, not every sermon was right on the mark. We’re still trying to figure things out. And some of those questions are heart wrenching and require a tremendous amount of sacrifice, more on some people’s parts than others. But I choose to trust in the grace of God. I choose to trust that everyone came to that table with a shared love for Christ. I choose to trust that God was in the midst of everything that went on and that the leadership really truly wanted to honor Christ in the congress. Yes, brokenness and human nature were evident in places, but so was the Spirit of God himself. And that’s what we walk away with.
May I remain a person of integrity by practicing all that I have just said. Take the log out of my own eye first. By the grace of God I go.