The stifling atmosphere of perfection (See The Sterilized Church, Part 1) that permeates from so many churches is devastating to everyone who struggles within its midst. If those within the church aren't comfortable revealing their true lives, imagine the effect on those outside of the church.
Connie Jakab's recent blog post What "Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin" mentality does to people was still ringing in my mind during our Sunday School discussion two weeks ago. We were comparing the Ten Commandments in the context of the Old Testament and the New Testament. Jesus was able to sum up the Ten Commandments in just two commandments.
Matthew 22: 37-40 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
We spent a long time trying to describe what "Love your neighbor as yourself" really means. We know that our "neighbor" is anyone we come in contact with. Check out that sentence again. "Love" is a verb. We are called to actively pursue everyone. The more we talked, the more I felt the need to share all the thoughts that were swirling around in my mind.
If we don't make the effort to LOVE our neighbors, how will we ever be able to effectively share about our faith? When we show up as squeaky, clean Christians we immediately build a barrier between ourselves and anyone who has been judged or hurt before. It's "Us" versus "Them" and our goal is to clean them up and convert them.
What would happen if instead of looking at people as tallies on our Heaven Scorecard, we slowed down, learned who they were, and shared the gospel through our life? The truth is that it's not our job to change people or convert them. I really think more people would be open to hearing about the gospel if they didn't feel judged the whole time, like they need to get their life in order before they can even cross the threshold of the church.
The Holy Spirit provides the real desire to change our lives. If we have hurt people so deeply that they turn away from the truth of God's desire for them we have committed the ultimate wrong. The church has lost its effectiveness if people aren't comfortable entering the building.
Matthew 9: 11-12 Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
We're all sick. It's just that some of us have seen the doctor and are seeking treatment.