It’s Sunday morning, and I’ve just returned from the early service of the New Jerusalem Friends Church in La Paz. This service, running from 7:00 to 10:00 a.m., is in the Aymara language, while the later service switches to Spanish. The large meeting room gradually filled up with around 200 people. It was wonderful to once again worship God in that most lovely of languages. Later today we have our first meeting of the committee dedicated to researching and writing the history of the Bolivian Friends Church (INELA). I’m prepared with the traditional box of chocolates.
About a week ago, as I was reading through the book of Philippians, I sensed a new focus for this history project. What I first understood to be a challenge to me personally, I now see as an encouragement for our whole team. It comes from Paul’s prayer for the Philippian believers. Paul writes, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God” (1:9-11).
The heart of this prayer is the phrase, “that your love may abound,” and I’m reminded that love needs to be the motivation behind this huge project. First, love for God: I’m reminded of the sense of call to this task that I responded to, and that obedience to God springs from love. We follow the Lord because we love him. Second, love for the church: Our investigation is revealing all sorts of information, not all of it positive. While the church belongs ultimately to God, for some reason God chooses to use human beings in her formation. And human beings, all of us, are full of flaws. It’s easy to criticize the church, and since a negative outlook is typical of the Aymara mindset, criticism often floats to the surface in our conversations. We wonder, how can we write about this or that?
Here’s where I find God’s word to us so important. We are called to love God and to love God’s church, with all her imperfections and flaws. We are to be amazed at how grace and mercy triumph over judgment, again and again. This is an immensely helpful perspective at this point in our project. We need to deal with the mistakes and problems that are part of our history, but from the perspective of faith, hope and love.
The verse continues: “that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.” How appropriate for a history project! Knowledge can refer to the fruits of investigation, to the facts we’re trying to uncover, to the truths that we’re trying to get right, to the discoveries we hope to make. Depth of insight refers to the interpretation we as a community of investigators and writers give to those facts. Apparently, love will abound in knowledge and wise interpretation.
I’m encouraged and grateful. These next two months will be full of hard work and good times of fellowship with our team. With love to fuel us and the Spirit to fill us, it will be possible.