Have you ever started telling a funny story about someone and then had to bite your tongue because you realized they were in the room? After all, you don’t want to hurt their feelings. But a little innocent laughter at their expense that they don’t know about won’t hurt them, right?
Maybe you haven’t done it yourself, but you’ve seen others quickly retreat from a topic when they realize the person might overhear them. Without the fear of being overheard, however, the story can be told and everyone entertained with a little chuckle.
That’s how it goes, doesn’t it? Except for those unfortunate times when the person who is the center of the tale is present, unbeknownst to the teller of the tale. The chuckles are still had, but one person walks away feeling like a bit of a fool.
Not very Christian behavior, you might be thinking. Making fun of people just because you think they’re not there to hear it.
Yet, that’s exactly what I’ve heard Christians do. Sometimes even from the pulpit or the teachers seat of a Sunday School class.
Heard it just recently. It was a story about a person who offered a Christian “happy thoughts” when they heard that the Christian was ill. The Christian, of course, accepted the happy thoughts without comment at the time, but it made a good story for the Sunday congregation about what a foolish and meaningless gesture the person had made. Chuckles went up from the congregation. But I wondered – was everyone really laughing?
Why did the person on the platform assume that everyone sitting in the pews were proper religious people who would always offer prayers and not meaningless happy thoughts? The pews had hundreds of people sitting in them. He didn’t know them all. Many of them had been attending the church for years, but others were newcomers, some perhaps visiting for the first time.
I wondered how many sitting in the pews had wished someone happy thoughts during the last week. It’s a pretty common saying these days. When they heard the incredulous statement from the platform that the gentleman often met people who didn’t even know the Old Testament stories that ‘we all’ grew up with, did they realize they weren’t part of the ‘we?’
Who are ‘we’ and who are ‘they?’ Are ‘we’ really so much smarter and holier than ‘they’ are?
It makes me sad. Who would invite guests to into their home and then treat them with such contempt, as if they forgot they had made the invitation?
It made me wonder if I’ve been guilty of doing the same thing. I hope not, but it is possible. I believe I’ve changed. I believe I’ve lost my tribal attitude and my religious pride. I hope so.
If you were sitting in the pews. Please forgive our bad manners.