There is an article circulating Facebook right called “I Don’t Want to be a Christian Anymore” and I find it heartbreaking. This article isn’t written in anger but is more of a saddened plea with the reader. The author is discussing the hypocrisy and elitism of the church. While she isn’t encouraging people leave the church but rather remind themselves of what being a christian is, her general tone is this;
It’s the church that’s left me feeling many times over like I don’t want to be a Christian anymore.
This article pricked me because I can relate. Many years ago I felt wronged and judged by women in a church. Simply put I was burned. As a result I closed up shop. I stopped attending faithfully and even when I was going it wasn’t for the right reasons. I went because that’s what you are “supposed to do”. I didn’t allow myself friendships. I didn’t let anyone besides my family in. I just shut down, it seemed safer.
In every church I attended or visited I could point out the hypocrisy. In one church they were teaching give to the poor but the pastor was driving a fancy car and lived in a mansion (practice what you preach or lead by example), in another they seemed more concerned with how you dressed then what your heart looked like (God is not a respecter of persons but of the heart), in another the women seemed catty and almost enjoyed gossiping (read about the Titus 2 women) and in another it seemed like everybody was putting on a face and refusing to admit that they too had problems (plastic people in plastic steeples). I had laser vision and could point out the flaws and give my responses to them in a second flat. My heart was wrong.
Now I am not saying these sorts of things in a church are good or acceptable. Also, I am not saying that those are necessarily the churches I would want to attend faithfully. BUT the church is full of hypocrites because the church is full of sinners. Jefferson Bethke said that church is not a museum for good people but a hospital for the broken. In fact if you have never heard his Why I hate Religion But Love Jesus I encourage you to listen, I really love his heart. We are going to get burned in church. People are going to say things that hurt our feelings because they are just as messed up as we are. If we are truly honest with ourselves about who we are, we know we are messed up. Anyone who holds the mirror up and finds a perfect man, should look for a new mirror. Even Paul, a man whose life inspires me with his passion and love, said:
This isn’t a free pass to sin and hurt others but rather a reminder that all fall short. We can’t expect others to live up to a standard that we cannot ourselves. A few years ago God showed me this truth and my little family moved and really plugged into our current church. And guess what? People hurt me, I was gossiped about and felt judged by some. I also hurt people by saying things I shouldn’t have and looking down on them. Everyday I strive to do better and I can only assume they are doing the same.
This truth God showed me four or five years ago, is one that I am continuing to learn. This work is nowhere near perfected. A couple of Sundays ago the lesson really struck me. We are in the book of Luke (I could do a whole other post on the systematical teaching of the Word, I believe in it that strongly) and we’re talking about Simeon and Anna. Here are two older saints who are living in a time where their church is, well a joke. Its filled with people who don’t even believe! Its filled with hypocrites, people who are in it for the money, and people who only do it for the prestige. There is hardly a person there who is actually serving God. But then there is Simeon and Anna. Here are two older saints, in the midst of an incredibly messed up church, and they are on fire! They are faithfully serving God and being about his business. They didn’t stop attending because the temple was filled with the wrong people, they pressed in! As a result of being exactly where they were supposed to be, they were able to see and hold the Messiah!!! What an incredible reward!
So, as I go forward I will continue to press in. I will be in my father’s house surrounded by sinners and I will be the sinner who surrounds other people. I will try harder to be the type of person I want as a friend and fellow believer and I will fall. But I will stand up and try again. I will concern myself only with the kingdom and will do my best to serve God’s people. But more specifically to me, I will look for others who have been hurt and I will reach out. When I see that familiar worn look on someone’s face (the same look I wear so often) I wont walk past them anymore. I’ll stop, introduce myself if needed, and try to speak life.