I have been in a lot of churches. I have been around a lot of good, godly people who genuinely love Jesus and live out their faith in a Christ-like manner. I can honestly say that I have been blessed in tremendous ways over the years by being a part of the body of Christ.
But in all of my experiences with the church, I have also seen and heard a lot of things that are unbiblical and quite contrary to the teachings of Jesus but are often said and done in the name of Jesus.
I’ve seen Christians controlled by legalism and fear – afraid of having the wrong doctrine, afraid of watering down the gospel, afraid of getting too close to sin by getting too close to sinners.
I’ve seen Christians gripped by pride and Christians consumed by worldly ways of thinking.
As I have witnessed the church it and been around those who call themselves God’s people, there have been many times when Christianity left a bad taste in my mouth. I have been around Christians who preach grace on Sunday, but from Monday through Saturday they behave with such anger and arrogance and condemnation towards “sinful” people, or people who disagree with them, or people who live differently that it makes Sunday’s grace seem pointless and empty.
I have witnessed many things over the years that are just not right with God’s church.
In so many ways, while Christians talk about the brokenness in the world, I can’t help but notice the brokenness among Christians.
Their attitudes. Their lack of love. Their feelings of moral superiority. I have to admit that there have been many times in my Christian life, from childhood into adulthood, when I have lost faith in Christianity and have lost faith in the church. It’s just not supposed to be this way. God’s people are supposed to be the light of the world, right? We are supposed to be God’s representatives on earth. So why does it seem like so many Christians still have hearts that haven’t yet been changed by Jesus?
Out of the heart, the mouth speaks
I was in a church once where a man who was leading a Bible study began to chase a rabbit trail about immigration and ended up revealing some of the coldness of his own heart. I don’t even remember what he was teaching on this particular Sunday, but the topic turned to his thoughts on people crossing the border and coming to our country. While I have no memory of his Scripture or his lesson, what I do remember is him making some pretty violent and spiteful comments and getting plenty of nods and agreement from the other individuals in the room.
That moment would always stick with me because it was a classic example of the need for change among “God’s people.” I remember thinking at the time (and many times since then), “If a non-Christian were to hear something like this, what would they think about Christianity? What would they think about the church? Would they view Christians as loving people, or as hate-filled and judgmental individuals who just want everyone to believe the way that they believe?”
In many of my experiences, I think the latter was the more likely perspective.
It’s Time For Change
I long to see reform among God’s church. I believe that God is calling His people to conform to the ways of Jesus, to allow ourselves to be so captivated by His teachings that they just flow naturally into our daily lives.
How faithful and obedient are we to Jesus’ command to love our neighbors as ourselves? What about when Jesus says that we should take care of the poor and the naked and the hungry? What do we do with the stories in the gospels that tell of Jesus breaking bread and drinking wine with “publicans and sinners?” Do we shrug our shoulders and say, “Oh, well, the world is different now. God doesn’t want us hanging out with sinners today!”
One of my most frequent prayers recently has been that God would show His church the ways in which we need to repent and let Him change us; that He would show us how we sometimes say things and do things that are not in the likeness of Jesus; how we sometimes fail to carry out the message of the gospel in our actions towards the world. I think this prayer has become such a burden on my heart because of all the ways that I have seen the exact opposite take place within Christian culture.
I don’t’ want to be guilty of claiming to follow Jesus but not being willing to follow His teachings and examples. I want to be faithful and obedient in every way – not just in my actions, but in my heart as well. I so badly want to see Christians being reformed and renewed and revived in the ways of Christ. I want to see Christians become willing to admit that some of the ways they have acted and spoken and thought and felt have not been very much like the character and love of God at all.
I want to see the church reshaped into the image of Jesus. After all, HE is supposed to be the head – the model – of the church. If we aren’t LIKE Him, are we really OF Him?? As disciples of Jesus, we must understand the importance of actually following the teachings of our Master. If He is who we claim He is, and we belong to Him as we say we do, then a noticeable difference is going to be seen in how we walk in that identity in this world.
Let God renew us and make us the kind of people who truly represent Jesus on earth.