This past weekend hundreds of people around the world did their religious duty and went to church. Others, who have become disillusioned with Christianity, spent their time in other pursuits, the last thing one their minds being “religion”. In fact many people have been so put off by organized religion that they refuse to take part in anything remotely resembling it. And with good reason. Those of us who call themselves by the name of Christ have done Him a great disservice. We have not been the “image of Christ” to the world. Which is what we are supposed to be.
We have spent our time fighting among ourselves over non issues. Whole denominations have been started over simple fights that could not be resolved. Like the question of baptism. Two denominations continue to fight about whether or not to baptize people in “the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” or in “Jesus name”. Kinda seems trivial compared to the thousands that are going to hell each and every day. Or the fight about what kind of music should be played in service, be it hymns or choruses, contemporary or classic, or even what instruments should be used. Organs, or piano. Or whether an electric guitar belongs in church. Or, for that matter, whether or not instruments belong in church at all.
We fight over small doctrinal issues, that really don’t matter in the scope of eternity, and spend our time in, what Paul warns against in 2 Timothy 2:23 “Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish arguments, which only upset people and make them angry.” And yet we consistently get involved in these quarrels. Which church is right. Which church is better. Sounds like a playground squabble if there ever was one. We choose to separate ourselves from each other based on simple differences that have been blown completely out of proportion. And this happens within churches as well. We form little clichés of people who are “faithful” and push aside those whom we don’t see as measuring up.
And yet if the truth be told none of us measure up. We put on a good show, but like the Pharisees of scripture we are simply looking good for peoples benefit, and inside there is death. Jesus called them “white-washed tombs”. “I am not at all like the Pharisees” I can hear some people say. But as soon as we lose site of our need for Christ, and begin to see ourselves as of more value to God than others that is exactly who we become. And then we wonder why no one wants what we are offering.
I think we have done ourselves a great disservice. Because Jesus isn’t returning for you and I anyway. I know this will be a controversial statement but it is the truth. Jesus is returning for His bride. One who is pure and spotless. And the church is His bride. Not a building somewhere we gather in. We do not “go to church”. We are the church. And Jesus is returning for the church one day. The whole, world-wide church. We have chosen to separate ourselves from each other, and yet we all are who Christ is returning for. Not you and I as individuals. But the church body.
I broke my thumb a few weeks back, and as it heals I have been limited to what I can do. And one morning while I worshiped together with other believers I can to a fuller understanding of Paul’s remarks that we are “all members of one body” in Romans 12:5 and the understanding of when one member of the body hurts, all the members are affected. And as I raised my hands in worship, you wouldn’t think that raising your arm would affect your thumb, my thumb began to ache. And slowly that ache was felt up into my shoulder. And I realized just how much of an effect an injured member has upon the other members of the body. Or as my pastor says “Just try dropping a bottle of pop on your toe and see if your head doesn’t hurt.”
We need to come together, not to become the same as each other for that is not how God created us, but in our diversity. God did not make us all thumbs. We would look pretty funny if He did. And yet when we attend our weekly services we seem to expect that of each other. God is a God of diversity. If you don’t believe me just look up at a rainbow, or watch a snow fall and try to find two that are the same. And yet we try to “cookie cutter” ourselves. Time for each of us in our uniqueness to rise up in our relationship to God and give that relationship voice and accept each other as we are, and for who we are. Only can we then be the example of Jesus called us to be. “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” John 13:34,35
Christians were meant to be the most welcoming and accepting people. We are in the same boat as the rest of the world, except for the fact that we accepted the free gift of Jesus. Which doesn’t make us better than anyone else. We are still sinners saved by grace, and without the help of the Holy Spirit would not be able to change our lives at all. Time for us to return to our roots, and forget ourselves and simply begin again to welcome people into the arms of Christ once again. For without His work in us we would be just as lost.