I’ve been asked why. Why would I share some of the painful details of my life and the church’s role in both the good and the bad? Well, allow me to answer that here and now.
Church is, and always has been, a huge part of our life. Of the many and varied paths our road has taken we have seen the worst and the best in human nature. We’ve met people from all walks of life—some have been helpful and kind, others were selfish and cruel.
I would love to say that every good person we’ve had the pleasure of knowing is a God-fearing, Jesus-with-skin-on kind of Christian. And, I’m sure some of you would feel better if you knew that all the “bad” people in the world are not Christ followers.
But, as a pastor friend of mine likes to say, “people are no damn good”.
This is what I want all of you to know—I have never, ever allowed the bad behavior of a few to influence my love for God or my understanding of who God is. Tom and I have always trusted God to work in and through our circumstances. As I’ve said again and again, we’ve had a front row seat to some serious miracles!
I hear people tell me all the time that they don’t want anything to do with a God whose kids are so mean to one another. But I know that people are human beings who make stupid and careless mistakes all the time. I wish we were perfect, but on this side of heaven perfection will forever elude us.
A few weeks ago I sat in a church service where the pastor asked the congregation to tell him who Jesus is. People said words like, “kind”, “miracle worker”, “unconditional love”, “grace”, “forgiveness”, and many more. The pastor then removed his jacket and revealed a t-shirt with the word CHRISTIAN on it.
What, he inquired of the congregation, do you think of when you see this word?
It took a few minutes for people to begin, and they started quietly, but soon the words came. “Hypocrite”, “judgmental”, “haters”, etc… The number one adjective used by unbelievers to describe Christians is “hypocrite”. There’s a disconnect between who Jesus is and who we are.
We’re all hypocrites—every human one of us! We all say we stand for things, but when push comes to shove, we fold under the pressure. We say we don’t lie, but we tell our boss we’re sick on a day we want to go to the beach. We say we don’t steal, but we use the copy machine at work to make those posters for the weekend garage sale. We gossip, we judge, we covet, and we keep angry accounts.
While I've come through the fire with my faith in God still intact, I sometimes find it difficult to have faith in the people who make up the body of the church.
I struggle because we’re so busy checkin’ out the speck in one another’s eye, that we neglect the tree trunk protruding from the middle of our own head. We do this. I do this. Come on people, let’s acknowledge this truth and hold one another accountable with love and gentleness. That’s what we’re supposed to do. If you don’t know how to do this, please read Matthew, chapter 18.
There are days when I can’t stand the thought of ever walking into a church again. But then I remember the words of the author of the book of Hebrews, Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25
Did you catch the word in the middle of that passage? Look again. Encourage. We are to encourage one another.
You wanna know why people aren’t coming to church, why they aren’t being drawn to Jesus? We fail to encourage one another—not always, but too often. In addition, we are called upon to sharpen one another, to hold the pew sitter next to us accountable, to love, to carry, and to grow each other up in the light of Christ’s teaching. We are supposed to meet the needs of the hurting and hungry. We are SUPPOSED to be Jesus with skin on!
I have NEVER, nor will I EVER use the bad behavior of a few as an excuse to not serve God. I’ve made mistakes, errors in judgment, and I’ve flat out sinned. I don’t excuse my behavior and I don’t blame anyone else for my choices.
Further, I know you’ve sinned. How do I know this? It’s the human condition. I don't know what, when, or how, and I don't want to know. But guess what? I love you. If I don’t show it, call me on it. I’m not asking the church to water down The Gospel or to compromise Truth. I’m asking God’s kids to seek first to understand, then to be understood. I’m asking the church to love.
The other day I wrote about an article I came across in the January, 1962 edition of LOOK Magazine. Several thinkers of the day predicted what life would be like in 25 years. Martin Luther King, Jr. said he expected the world to “blush with shame” at the way we treated people of color.
The history of the church is peppered with embarrassing atrocities—traditions we no longer hold to. We are still growing and learning. I trust one day we will “blush with shame” at some of our ugliness.