What’s wrong with the Church?

I learned a long time ago never to write when I’m angry. So I may delete this post before it goes live. If you’re reading this now, you can assume the Holy Spirit shouted at me loud enough to keep it, because I don’t usually do this.

I’ve about had it, folks.

Never in my memory have I ever seen so many people who claim to follow Jesus point so many fingers. Social media has become a hub of bitterness and resentment, even more than it usually is, but it’s not the “worldly” people who are causing the biggest stir. It’s those of us who claim to follow Jesus. And we’re not going after people who don’t believe. We’re going after each other. Maliciously.

What is wrong with us?

I’m not surprise to hear it from people who don’t believe in Jesus. Honestly, this post is for Christians. Because if you say you follow Christ, and you are lashing out at other Christians, my friend, you are wrong (1 John 4:20). I don’t care what the issue is. I don’t care what you think you’re standing for. When your words and actions are intentionally damaging, you are not representing Jesus, and if you say you are, you are literally taking His name in vain—putting His stamp of approval on actions He would never sanction.

There are so many issues floating around right now, and everyone is so divided. Your political stance doesn’t matter. That’s not what this post is about (even though some people will make political). This post is a broken-hearted cry to anyone who believes in Jesus to get your heads out of your proverbial asses and start taking personal accountability for the words that are coming out of your mouths (Matthew 12:33-37).

If you don’t think the country should accept refugees, take the Bible verses you used to make your point and live by them on every other subject—not just the ones that stroke your ego. If you don’t use the Bible to direct the way you live normally, you have no place using it to justify this one point. You’re a hypocrite.

If you think the country should accept refugees, that’s great, but first, you should open the door to your own home and let strangers live in your house, interact with your children, and use your resources. If you’re willing to put your own happy home life at risk for the sake of someone else, you can urge the rest of the country to do it too. If you haven’t already done that, keep your naive opinions to yourself.

Nothing has changed

This is the same problem the Church has always had. We point fingers without personal risk (James 1:22). We sit on our blessed assurance and tell everyone else how to do their jobs, but when it comes to actually serving someone else, we close our doors. When it comes to putting our own lives on the line or sacrificing our own resources, we turn a blind eye. It’s perfectly fine to demand that the country as a whole should follow God, but when we are faced with a choice between a Godly option that will cause us discomfort and a worldly option that will be convenient, we often choose convenience.

Welcome to Club Humanity, where everyone’s screwed up but nobody will actually admit it.

Do you think that knowing a few Bible verses makes you eligible to speak for God? Do you think that dropping an occasional 20 in the offering plate makes you a generous person? Do you think having a family of your own gives you the right to hand down judgment on what other families should do? Do you think your church membership makes you more qualified to determine whether someone is worthy of salvation or not?

God, have mercy on us. All of us. We have no idea what we’re doing.

We’re taking sides and loading our weapons and facing off with each other when we should be united. We’re focusing on the issues that divide us rather than on Your love that should be binding us together. We’re listening to flawed human logic when we should be building our lives on Your eternal truth. And we’re taking Your truth and twisting it to suit our own needs rather than Your wisdom—wisdom you make plain in your Word.

How do we fix this mess?

I don’t have the answer. No human can fix us. Only God can do that. But He won’t until we all stop acting like we are the source of righteousness, when all we’re doing is adding to the noise.

Stop screaming and shouting. Stop with the impotent Facebook status updates that only stir up conflict and aggression. Just stop. Listen. Pray. And when you feel the need to be cruel to another believer, don’t. Because you’re not helping. It doesn’t matter what side of the fence you’re on. It doesn’t matter whether you call yourself conservative or liberal, right-wing or left-wing, Republican or Democrat. If you call Jesus Lord, you belong to God’s family, and God’s family is never supposed to act like this.

Stop trying to be the loudest voice in the room. That’s not what the Church is here for. We’re all so caught up in trying to prove to the rest of the world that we’re right that we’re forgetting our most important job: To love each other (Matthew 22:37-40).

And I’m not talking about loving foreigners. I’m not talking about extending grace and mercy to unbelievers. I’m talking about loving our fellow Christ-followers, our brothers and sisters in the faith. That’s the only way the world knows we’re different. That’s the only clue the world has that God is real (John 13:35). It’s how we love each other, especially when we disagree with each other.

What can we do?

You want to honor God? You want to do what God says is right? Start there. Love each other. And show that you love each other by extending kindness and grace to the people you don’t agree with, regardless which side of the political arena they’re sitting on.

Take what you say you believe and live it. Take how you’re telling other people to live and put it into practice in your own life. Then you can talk. Then you expect other people to listen. Until you do that, you’re no better than the politicians who write laws that they don’t have to obey. And you’re part of the problem instead of the solution.

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Water Boy for the Marion Warriors football team - Hutchinson, KS

Well-oiled machines don’t have squeaky wheels

I got to go to another football game the other night. I haven’t been to many, and the ones I’ve gone to have only been high school. My lack of a competitive nature has really caused me to stay away from sports for most of my life, but my best friend is a sports editor/photographer for her town paper, and she had a game close to my house the other night. So I dropped by to chill on the sidelines with her … literally because the temperatures dropped into the 30s as we stood there.

But throughout the game, I noticed this one kid, whom I took a picture of. He was smaller than all the other players. He wasn’t treated very well; they all yelled at him. And for all the abuse he took, he had to run around–not on the field where he could get any glory for his hard work–but on the sidelines making sure the players stayed hydrated.

And it got me thinking about the Church.

Water Boy for the Marion Warriors football team - Hutchinson, KS

Water Boy for the Marion Warriors football team – Hutchinson, KS

Today’s verses are 1 Corinthians 12:12-26.

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.

Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.

I love my liver. It’s pretty important, if you didn’t know. Kind of like my pancreas is important, even though it probably doesn’t function the way it’s supposed to all the time. And if I didn’t have my gallbladder, whew! No more greasy foods for me. There are parts of our bodies that we can’t live without, even though no one gets to see them.

When was the last time you walked up to someone and told them they had a lovely colon? Never? Well, maybe their intestines aren’t visible, but if they didn’t have a functioning colon, they wouldn’t be standing upright talking to you.

Like a little finger. Or a big toe. They’re small parts of your body, but try walking without a big toe. Try picking stuff up without a little finger. It’s just as impossible to function on the outside without those two parts as it is to try to function on the inside without a colon or a liver or a pancreas.

People get to thinking that their mouths are the most important (anybody see the debate?). Or they get to thinking that their eyes are the most important or their ears or their hair or their arms or legs or whatever our culture deems as beautiful or intellectual or attractive. But what good is a head without a neck? What good is a mouth without a nose or ears? Most of your sense of taste comes from your sense of smell. Most of your ability to speak comes from your sense of hearing.

There’s no part of the human body that’s unimportant. Yes, pieces and parts can be removed, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have lasting effects from their absence. And just as that is true of the human body, it is true of the Church.

No one is minor. No one is most important. Everyone has a function. Everyone has a design. And we are all designed to work together for one purpose: drawing people to Christ.

So if you’re a big bad Christian and everyone knows you and you walk into your church next Sunday and some little teenager holds a door open for you with a smile and a bulletin, and you think you’re more important than he is? … You’re wrong.

If you’re a children’s Sunday School teacher full of knowledge about the Bible and in possession of a carefully categorized flannelgraph collection, and you think you’re more important than the little kids you’re teaching? … You’re wrong.

Even if you’re a pastor, even if you’re a deacon or a trustee or an elder, even if you’re a worship leader or an actor or an usher … none of you are more important than the little old lady who cleans the bathrooms. You all matter, and you all are important, and you all have a job to do. And while you could probably do your job without the little old lady who cleans the bathrooms, you would feel her absence decidedly if she weren’t there.

So the next time you’re tempted to feel important at church, think about how difficult it would be to walk without a big toe. Remember that Church was designed to be a unit of many small parts, a well-oiled machine with a specific goal and purpose. So don’t be the squeaky wheel.

Peter and Paul

Do you ever read verses in the Scripture when you feel like it’s beating a dead horse? It’s funny to me how whoever chooses the Bible Verse of the Day at Biblegateway.com kind of seems to choose a topic and then finds verses to support it. But it’s also funny to me that the topics the Verse of the Day often repeats and repeats and repeats are the same topics people have a hard time remembering. So maybe that horse isn’t dead yet after all . . .

Today’s passage is Philippians 2:1-2.

1 Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

Unity. Be of one mind. Work with one purpose. Agree wholeheartedly with each other. Love each other. Sound familiar? A lot like yesterday’s post. But different. Because it was written by a different person.

Yesterday’s verse (1 Peter 3:8) was written by Peter.

Today’s verse (Philippians 2:1-2) was written by Paul.

Yet they wrote the same thing, almost word for word.

And let’s just say this, folks, if Peter and Paul could find a way to be of one mind a purpose, anyone can. 

Peter was a fisherman, loud mouthed, abrasive, impulsive and uneducated.

Paul was a scholar, a high-ranking Jewish leader with more education than he probably knew what to do with.

Peter was flamboyant, an intense, emotional person.

From what I can tell, Paul was more reserved, more of a thinker.

Peter was one of the original twelve disciples Jesus chose, who lived with Him for three years.

Paul was chosen after Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension (still chosen by Christ, but Paul didn’t follow Him while He was alive on Earth).

Peter was older.

Paul was younger.

And let’s not forget the most obvious disparity in their relationship. Peter led many to the Lord following Jesus’ ascension. . . . . And, at first, Paul killed them.

That was Paul’s job. Persecuting Christians. I believe He was present at the stoning of Stephen, another Christ follower mentioned in Scripture. It’s likely he held the coats of the men who threw the rocks.

Of course, when God got a hold of Paul, his life changed (and so did his name, as previously he was named Saul). But even if God forgets our sins, it’s hard for the people around us to do the same. Imagine the Disciples’ shock when Paul, who had murdered scores of their freinds and colleagues, walked into their midst claiming to be a follower of God. I can imagine the look on Peter’s face, as the impulsive one of the group. And I’m sure a great number of disagreements broke out. And I’m sure Peter and Paul may not have been the best of friends, but they were willing to put their differences aside and work together because they could agree on what mattered.

Is there a Christian you know who’s solid theologically but that you have a hard time getting along with?

Compare your relationship with that person to the relationship of Peter and Paul. And if you don’t know what to do with that person follow their example. Put aside the things that you don’t like and put aside the picky little details you can’t agree on and focus on the big picture.

Do you have to be best friends? No. When it comes to close friendships, you need to be with someone who encourages you or enriches you, and even though other Christians may mean well, they don’t always speak your language.

But you do need to agree. And you do need to support each other. And you do need to be of one mind and one purpose.

And if God could help two people as different from each other as Peter and Paul work together for the same goal, He can do the same for us. We just have to let Him.

 

A note to all Christians from the disciple who broke every rule in the book (except the one that mattered)

Why is it so hard for Christians to be of one mind? Anyone have any theories on that? It’s amazing to me that in a room of 10 Christians, you can have 18 different opinions on how to do something . . . and really you’re supposed to agree on one. Think about that.

Not that it’s any easier for non-Christians to agree, but it just seems to me that people who say they are Christ followers automatically sign up to be contrary. It’s like we all can agree that Jesus died for us, but we can’t agree on how much He loves us.

So what is the image Christians project to others? A super secret club of people who backbite and gossip and can’t get along.

Sorry, folks, but I don’t think that’s right.

The verse for today is 1 Peter 3:8.

 8 Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters.[a] Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.

The first thing I noticed about this verse is that it’s addressed to “all Christians.” It’s not just new Christians or Christians who’ve believed for a long time or Christians who’ve been long-time members of the same religious establishment. It’s all Christians.

Be of one mind. The Amplified Version says it, “united in spirit.” If we’re Christians, we need to agree on the things that really matter. We need to agree on what’s written in the Bible. I’ve heard it said that we need to keep the main thing the main thing. What is that? I’m a sinner. You’re a sinner. Christ died for sinners. Nobody’s perfect. Believing in Christ–and Christ alone–is the only way to be saved, to have a one-on-one relationship with God, and to have an eternal future in heaven. The basics of true, biblical Christianity. Believing in Christ — not trusting in works or in a religion or in a man or in a symbol — is the only way to be saved.

If we can’t agree on that, there’s something wrong with someone’s basic doctrine. And that means we need to do some Bible study because the Bible is the standard.

Beyond agreeing with each other, though, we need to sympathize with each other. I tell you what, Christians are the meanest people I know. Sometimes they’re also the most selfish people I know. And I know this . . . because I’m one of them. I get so focused on myself and what I’m doing that I steamroll over people around me who need attention and who need to know I care.

Notice, the verse doesn’t say that we need to fix their problems. Most of the time we can’t do anything anyway. But sympathizing with someone is different than trying to fix them. Dictionary.com defines sympathizing as “sharing a feeling with someone, to feel compassionate sympathy.” And many times that’s all people need. They just need you to take the time out of your busy day to try to share their sorrow or their loneliness or their anger or their frustration, and as a believer in Christ, you need to do this for your brothers and sisters. Don’t try to fix them. Just listen. And pray.

It’s part of loving each other as brothers and sisters. I know most siblings don’t act like they love each other, which is a shame. My brother is my best friend. I’m not being sarcastic. I will tell Andy things I won’t tell anyone else, even my best friend and even my parents (who are also my best friends). We are supposed to love each other as Christians, as fellow followers of Christ who are trying to live the way Jesus did. But Christians fail at this immensely.

If you ask a non-believer if Christians love each other, how many times are they going to say yes? How many instances have Christians given the world that we actually care about each other? In my experience, those instances have been few and far between. I can tell you that the deepest wounds in my heart have come from Bible-believing Christians . . . because Christians know how to hurt each other. We’re family, after all. And family always knows how to hurt each other efficiently. But it shouldn’t be that way. We need to build each other up, not tear each other down.

We need to think about the things we say before we say them. Weigh your words. Words have impact. They have meaning. Be tenderhearted. Let your heard feel what your words will do to someone else before you say them.

And be humble about it. Nobody’s a superstar down here. We’re all made of out mud. We all make mistakes. And we all have learned painful lessons about what pride has done to our lives, but the worst choice in the world is to hide the lessons you’ve learned. We need to help each other. We need to learn from each other.

We are so good at putting people on pedastals. And then our faith is shaken because our hero does something wrong.

What I love about this verse is that Peter wrote it. Peter. The disciple who was loud and impulsive and rough around the edges. And even after he decided to follow Christ, I’m pretty sure he didn’t embody very many of these things. But when he let God change him, God did something awesome with him. Not saying he was perfect then. I’m pretty sure he was still rude and abrasive at times.

But Peter speaks from experience here. He knew what worked and what didn’t. And He knew (because God told him) that if Christians were going to survive this crazy, broken, messed up world, we needed to trust God, yes; but we also needed each other.