Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Finger Painting

Little Johnny and Julie were hard at work at their newspaper-covered kitchen table. One big sheet of heavy paper stretched between them as their shared canvas. Plastic bottles of paint stood on both sides of the white paper.

Johnny painted a blue cloud with purple lightning coming down. Julie painted an orange Mommy. He painted a yellow snake in a brown tree. She painted a green Daddy pushing a red baby stroller. He painted purple and blue guns. She painted pink and red hearts. He painted brown Indians shooting arrows. She painted green and orange stars.

The buzzer announced the end of their painting time. Mom strode into the kitchen, initiating Project Cleanup. She set their masterpiece on the sunlit counter with a smile. In the bathroom she took off their plastic smocks, and cleaned the paint off of the faces, arms, fingers, and hair of her newly created Indian children. Now how did Johnny’s blue paint end up in Julie’s hair? she wondered. And that’s Julie’s red paint above Johnny’s eyebrows!

Mom clicked on the washing machine and headed back to the kitchen. She cleaned off the kitchen table... and chairs... and floor... and how did it get on the ceiling! Only later did she notice the colorful hand print on her blouse...

As a Branch church, we are called to relationships. This is not an option. “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (Phil. 2:4 NLT). “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (Rom. 15:1 ESV).

Relationships are the finger paintings of life – and they can be messy. No, the children didn’t mean to get paint everywhere. It just happened while they focused on their finger paintings. Relationships are like that. In our best intentions, we end up smearing paint on places it doesn’t belong.

As long as there are relationships, there will be messes – and opportunities for offense. There is no guarantee that in the church we will not be painted upon. Actually, we could guarantee the opposite. Is it because people in the body are trying to get their paint on us or our side of the canvas? Is it because they are intentionally hurtful? Probably not. Maybe opinionated. Maybe poor communicators. Maybe unaware of another’s sensitivity to an issue. Maybe still growing up into Christ (Eph. 4:15). But not usually intentionally hurtful.

As intrinsic as messes are to finger painting, misunderstandings are to relationships – because none of us know everything. None of us can know all that could be hurtful to another. Jesus doesn’t require us to be perfect in knowledge, but perfect in love (Matt. 5:48, 1 Jn. 4:12,17,18).

The Message paraphrases Paul’s words like this: “Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self... [Love] doesn't keep score of the sins of others... [It] puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best... [and] keeps going to the end” (1 Cor. 13).

Because relationships are the finger paintings of life, misunderstandings will occur in a relationship based church. Thankfully, God is the Perfect Parent who knows how to clean up after our messes. He doesn’t notice the imperfections of our paintings, nor is He hindered by us getting paint everywhere. He takes pride in the fact that we are painting our masterpieces together for Him.


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