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Why we can celebrate who we are

What a friend we have in Jesus. 

Two recent e-mails prompted me to reflect on the precious friendships — old and new — that we have through our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Both e-mails came from sisters who knew me as a child and recognized my name — if not my balding head — after reading a column that mentioned my parents, Bob and Judy.
My family lost touch with Merrily Edmiaston years ago. Our families were close in the mid-1970s when my father and Merrily’s husband, Tom, now a minister with the Westside Church of Christ in Bakersfield, Calif., attended White’s Ferry Road School of Preaching in West Monroe, La.
My brother Scott, sister Christy and I enjoyed playing with the Edmiastons’ son, Justin. If I recall correctly, we also spent fun-filled hours together on the pink JOY buses that the White’s Ferry Road church ran all over town then.
Now, little Justin serves in the Army and is stationed in Tampa, Fla., after a year in Iraq. His sister, Wendy, who was 6 weeks old when the Edmiastons left West Monroe, lives in Randolph, N.J., with her minister husband, Ron, and their two daughters.
The other e-mail came from Mary Swanson, with whom my family was close when Dad preached in Elkin, N.C., in the late 1970s. Mary and her husband, Clyde, the local postmaster, had a pretty, blond-haired daughter named Nan. Scott and I were in love with Nan and staged a few “professional wrestling” matches over her, mixed between climbing trees and playing hide-and-seek.
“I would love to hear about your family,” Mary’s e-mail said. “I remember Bobby Ross did not like tomatoes.”
OK, I confess: I still don’t like tomatoes.
As for the Swansons: Clyde and Mary live in the Chattanooga, Tenn., area, where he transferred to a larger post office in 1980 and later retired. Nan is married and works as a high school art teacher.
The e-mails made me wonder about all the incredible Christians — people of simple, humble faith — I have known. Hearing from sisters I had forgotten made me contemplate that gigantic reunion that we will enjoy someday. Their e-mails brought back pleasant memories of growing up in the church and reminded me why I love our fellowship so much.
For most of the last 15 years, I have worshiped at a congregation whose ministers visited Tamie and me in the hospital when each of our three children was born — and whose elders have cried with our family and the entire church in times of crisis.
“I love the Church of Christ because of its people,” said Tamie, The Christian Chronicle’s associate online editor. “I get emotional sometimes when I think about the impact so many of them have had and continue to have in our lives.
“How do you thank people for helping you to raise your children in the Lord, for instance?” she added. “What can you do for the minister who hugs you on a day when you’re just feeling so down? So many people love me in all the moments of my life, good, routine and bad. I wish everyone could experience Jesus’ love manifested through people that way.”
Amid all the challenges and issues facing our congregations — concerns that we at the Chronicle plan to address in a yearlong project titled “Are we growing?” — reasons abound to celebrate who we are.
As a Christian journalist, I welcome and appreciate serious, informed dialogue on pressing topics confronting us.
But I grow weary of those who delight in finding fault with Churches of Christ. I am tempted to ask them: If we’re so messed up, why exactly are you still here?
I grow equally weary of those who mix Scripture and venom as they seek to impose their own will on all. I am tempted to ask them: Have you read any of the verses about sharing the truth with love?
But generally, I simply thank God for the vast middle ground among us. These brothers and sisters — whom I am blessed to meet in my travels to congregations across the nation — love the church, as my Chronicle colleagues and I do.
These brothers and sisters love that we come together, as the church in Acts did, on the first day of each week to remember Christ’s sacrifice and partake of the Lord’s Supper.
They love that we pray, sing praises to God — using our voices only — and enjoy fellowship with our brothers and sisters.
They love that we have no central headquarters and no creed but the Bible.
“What I love about the Church of Christ,” the Chronicle’s editor emeritus, Bailey McBride, told me, “is the commitment to the Bible as the inspired Word of God and a total guide to knowing God.
“I love the singing still,” Bailey added. “It moves me to weep, to repent, to humble myself before God.”
Amen, brother.
Like all of us who serve on the Chronicle’s editorial council, associate editor Joy McMillon grew up in the Church of Christ.
But as a girl, Joy didn’t recognize it as the Church of Christ.
“I just knew it was the place where sweet, warm people loved and taught me about God,” Joy said. “I experienced it as a place where people loved each other deeply and helped each other quickly, where we shared the good times and the bad.”
Amen, sister.
What a friend we have in Jesus.

Filed under: Inside Story

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