After reading recent social media posts I am moved by the number of people who have lost or abandoned any faith they might have once embraced or for which they may have simply searched. I suppose that I shouldn’t be surprised, I have stated frequently that had I founded my faith on other Christians I would have left the church within a year. I’m not saying that Christians treat people better or worse than our secular neighbors but that we do so in like manner. Politics and pain are commonplace in many organizations but church is where people go vulnerably in search of healing for the soul. Yet most people who have ever attended church for any significant period of time have been hurt by a fellow parishioner or leader. As I reflected on this painful truth I pondered what church might look like if she rid herself of selfishness. Here is what I came up with.
Picture an individual entering a church service late, interrupting with a string of blasphemous expletives, stealing the wallets of the congregants, using their credit cards to commit identity theft and slashing the tires of every car in the parking lot on his way out. Now, imagine that in response the church members throw the violator a surprise birthday party complete with champagne, caviar, steak and lobster followed by a three-tier birthday cake and then for a gift present him with a luxury Caribbean cruise. To top it all off, the members pay off all of the perpetrator’s debts. I envision a church that would make John Lennon’s world of “Imagine” appear more like a totalitarian police state.
You may say that I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one. The landscape of our social world is littered with the debris of wounded souls who sought God’s healing in church only to be victimized by the selfishness of the devout. However, some still maintain hope.
I am confident that Jesus would prefer His church to be known as a purveyor of forgiveness and grace rather than as one divided over music, preaching styles, service times, carpet colors, and chairs versus pews. Moreover, I have not drawn this illustration to describe the odd congregation that 20/20 might highlight in a documentary piece but rather as the expected norm throughout Christendom.
The shame is that even many of God’s people would consider such a notion implausible. What could possibly possess sane people to respond with such forgiveness? That is a topic for another day. For those who scoff at the impracticality of this vision I encourage you to set pragmatism aside for a moment and focus on the heart change required, yet available to realize such transformation.
“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:17