Her.meneutics is sponsoring a writing contest, giving female Christian bloggers the prompt “I wish my local church knew…”
So I did some reading, thinking, praying, took an unscientific poll on Facebook (Hi, guys!) and here’s what I came up with:
I wish the local church knew that it was not Jesus.
Why would I think the local church might believe that it was Jesus? Mostly because a lot of the time it acts like it thinks it is Jesus.
We think we are Jesus when we throw stones. In the public trial of the adulterous woman, Jesus said “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Cue everyone to drop their stones and walk away. The only one there qualified to throw a stone was Jesus, because He was the only one who was without sin. So when we, the church, condemn someone for their sin, we are chucking a rock that we are not really qualified to chuck. And for those of you who like to cry “but then He told her go and sin no more!” Yes, he did. Jesus is like that. He brings change to hearts that need changing. He sure did it for me. But remember, church, we are not Jesus. We aren’t the ones changing the hearts. The lost world is lost. Why are we surprised that they act that way? Which brings me to my next point.
We think we are Jesus when we decide who does and doesn’t understand things that are Spirit-discerned. Paul said in 1 Corinthians “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.“ In plain language, this says that if someone is a “natural man” (not a Christian benefited with the Holy Spirit), they cannot understand the things that a Spirit-filled person can. Our bible may be complete foolishness to the natural man, lacking any credibility. This cannot be changed without the Spirit, which may sound like more foolishness to him. Conversely, that Spirit may be hard at work within that natural man. Let’s let Jesus understand the workings of a person’s heart, and not assume we do. So we need to be careful about taking too much responsibility, which is next.
We think we are Jesus when we take personal responsibility for someone’s acceptance or rejection of Him. The world feels judged by us, and they are right to feel that way. We judge them. Lots of times we unfairly judge them (remember that thing where we are not Jesus?). But the church could stop judging entirely and the world would still feel judged. That’s because God set up right and wrong and He created us to be like Him, and when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit in the garden, all of us became aware of it. As a Christian community we could live by God’s law and just keep our lip zipped and it would still offend the non-believing world because it knows its own sin. That sin nature, born within each of us, is a wicked enemy of God. It doesn’t want us to know Him, so it works to reject anything of God. But when someone you have been talking to, praying for, and encouraging rejects God, it can feel awfully personal. Set that feeling aside. You are not Jesus. He tells us in John 15 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” (Don’t get a big head about that though. It is also very possible that the world hates you because you are being a jerk.)
We think we are Jesus when we pretend to be perfect. Jesus is perfect. We are not. Pretending we are hurts those outside of the church because we look like a bunch of hypocrites (because they have figured out that we are actually NOT perfect. Gasp! What gave us away?) Perhaps as damaging, though, is the false perfection we portray within the church. Here is a secret for those of you outside the church: we on the inside are just as broken, wounded, and guilty as those on the outside. But the inside is better. That’s what we need you to know. On the inside you figure out how to become unbroken, healed, and made new. It’s Jesus. It’s His love. He makes us all whole and new. But inside the church, we sometimes act as if we are not all coming from the same broken place. We act as if we were never broken in the first place, and that isolates those who still need more healing. They feel alone. It also robs Jesus of His glory. He DID fix us. We are not in the church because we are awesome. We are in the church because God loves us and made us whole. He loves those outside of it, too, which is why we can never give up.
We think we are Jesus when we think we know who will love Him and who will reject Him. No one is beyond hope. God’s grace is for everyone. Not all will receive it, but we don’t get to decide if someone might or might not. That is a dangerous, arrogant position. We don’t get to decide who is or is not worthy of his grace, and we don’t get to decide who is going to be reconciled with God. Therefore we never get to give up and decide that this world is just too tough and too hard and too lost. We are not Jesus. We don’t know. Keep praying. Keep telling. Keep hoping. That is obedience.
So, local church: We are not Jesus. We are His imperfect church, His beloved children. What can we do in light of this? Love God imperfectly but yearn for His perfection. Love your neighbor imperfectly but yearn for His perfection. Live your life imperfectly but yearn for His perfection. In the end He will make you perfect. It’s what He does.