Both of these bumper stickers point to something that is becoming more and more common. People are becoming increasingly disenchanted with the church; probably more accurately, the people IN church. Sometimes I read these bumper stickers and I honestly really can't blame people for the sentiments expressed in them. Those of us who claim to follow Jesus quite often the worst examples of His followers around.
I had a long conversation with a non-believer the other day and this was his main problem with the church. He pointed out the hypocrisy which has become rampant in the church: people saying one thing or claiming that they are better than others and than turning around and behaving in a very un-Jesus-like way.
What he sees are men and women claiming to everyone who will listen that they know the right way to behave or believe on an issue and then turning around and doing something that completely negates their witness. We are increasingly seen as judging those outside the church unto correction and as prideful in our salvation. Many of us seem to have no problem telling those who are not saved all of the things they are doing wrong. Unfortunately, this is often the only image that non-believers see.
I am certainly not saying that Christians should be perfect. In fact, the Bible *clearly* states that we are ALL a work in progress, and that following Christ is like running a race that does not end until we have died. We are all at different spots in that journey. Some of us are like spiritual "babies," still drinking milk and crawling instead of eating solid food. Others are older in the faith and have moved on to the "solids" of the faith.
Some churches have responded by declining to judge at all. This is also not right. We ARE clearly to judge those who are within the church. We are to be "iron sharpening iron." We are to discern right from wrong, wheat from chaff, and light from darkness for our own lives and those we are in authority within the church over. Jesus clearly told those who would follow him to "go and sin no more."
What I find lacking is the discipleship and mentoring of those who are spiritually immature in the faith by those who are further along in the journey. I see a severe lack of men and women who have been walking, talking and eating "meat," parenting those who are crawling and babbling like fools.
No mature adult would ever see a baby in need and not be moved to meet the needs of that baby. Yet, increasingly in the church we are doing that with our spiritual babies! How can this go on any longer and produce any kind of fruit? Children who are left without discipline, guidance, correction, and direction become wildly aimless adults who are unable to function. So it is within the church. The next generation of believers cannot be expected to "grow up" on their own and become a productive follower of Christ. There are whole generations of believers who are still drinking spiritual milk.
I sometimes wonder, is any of the stuff that comes out of our mouths how God really feels about things? Are we called to judge those outside the church? What should we do with those of us who are in the church and clearly in error? Even if we do know how God feels/thinks about an issue, are we authorized to speak on His behalf on that issue at that moment? We should have the fear of God in us when we say we are speaking in His behalf. We are not called to be silent, by any stretch, but we should be praying about what we're saying before we say it; making sure that when we speak, we speak the truth in love and to those we are supposed to!
So I wonder, where are the mature and wise Believers amongst us raising a generation of Believers who learn to walk the walk before they talk? Are we so caught up in "me, me, me" secular humanism that we don't want to be corrected or to offend anyone with our correction any longer? The church seems to have lost its ability to point out that which is not truth in each other. We have become this comedy of errors: half of us as judge and jury over everything (as though we some how BECAME God Himself at salvation) and the other half of us believing that love means accepting everything, even within the church.
Anyone who has been on the Christian journey for a length of time knows that we are NOT any better than anyone else and the second we start claiming we are, we have forgotten what it means to be saved. Those who are saved should be rescuing those who are not, not throwing rocks at them. It is not until we are on dry land that we begin our journey to become more like Christ. Rescuing is not enough, we also have to dust people off and walk along side of them on their journey.
1 Corinthians 5:9-13
I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you."James 1:26
If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless.
For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. Now if we put the bits into the horses' mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well.
Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.
For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.
With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.
Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.Blessings,
For additional thoughts on this topic see my friend Suzanna's latest blog: www.ojandsuz.com