Years ago there was a snazzy little slogan that was basically putting down the church while inviting you to come to theirs. I would drive by their billboard daily with a confused look. Don't get me wrong, I know people have been burned by their local church so you won't see me claiming any of them are perfect by a long shot. I too, have been burned by people in the church. But I also had a bad burger from a little diner once and yet I've continued to eat burgers in my life. So there's that.
But I digress.
I love the church. I love what God's intentions were with the church. I love the messed up people that make up the church. I love the banner that waves over the church that says:
You need mercy?
You need grace?
You need love?
We've got all of that.
And then some.
In Ephesians 5:25 we're told Christ loved the church so much that He gave Himself up for her. He created it to mirror a marriage relationship between Himself and His children. A place we could grow in wisdom and love for Him and get to know our brothers and sisters in Christ.
As the family of God we all share the same beginning-death.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.
Let that sink in for a moment. Dead. That was our beginning. Not tired, not sick, not done. Dead. But God…in all His mercy offers us this gift of LIFE (Ephesians 2:5). So as the church our story is-We're all just a bunch of once dead people that have accepted the greatest gift ever offered to us and now we're alive again. And once you've gone from death to life on behalf of someone else's doing-you just don't live the same. Once you've gone from hopeless death and impending wrath to real authentic LIFE it changes everything. I was dead and brought nothing to the table and He welcomed me into the family of God and offered me everything.
It ruins you for good, glory to God.
A couple of things I don't believe in that I just really want to get off my chest if you don't mind….
#1) Organized religion.
Jesus practiced faith-real faith. He came for the lost, the sick, the worst of the worst. Not just the cleaned up, shined up, "put together" among us. While He went religiously to meet with the people of God, He didn't follow a protocol of organized rules and regulations and He wasn't a fan of those who were more concerned with keeping a system of "works" than a people of radical love. He commended the grace-givers, not the grace-stealers.
#2) "I don't go to church because of the hypocrites".
If you are one of those people, please hear me out. I say this with the most love and compassion. Someone that could not be closer to me has been there for 10 years and I could not love her more, so there's no judgment here. But I will love you enough to look you in the eye (or computer screen) and tell you, it's probably time to step outside that box you've put yourself in. I won't try to tell you not every church has hypocrites, because they do. I'm a hypocrite too. My husband, family, friends, pastor-all hypocrites-yet they are truly some of the most incredible people I know. Let's be realistic here ya'll-there has only been one who was never a hypocrite and His Name is Jesus Christ. He alone was able to walk this earth without fault (Hebrews 4:15). I for one am a proponent of exercise and good health and healthy food, but I for one just enjoyed a bowl of ice cream my sweet man just brought me. Guilty as charged.
At the end of the day though, I don't go to church to be more like my church family, I go to church to be more like Jesus. Because when I'm with the people of God they pour into me and I pour into them and we all get the chance to become a little more like Him. So sweet friend, if a person or group of people "ruined" church for you I am here to tell you that another person or group of people can fix it for generations to come. Redemption is beautiful, don't you miss out on it for the world.
So yes, in this messed up world where in some seasons as a church we get it wrong a lot more often than we get it right, I still love the church. Because I was that dead person too, and yes I still have imperfect, messy junk in my life that I am clinging to a Perfect God to help me change. So I can never get stingy with grace and love because it is what saved me. It's what changed me. And I love the church that He intended for us.
Linked up with: Wake Up Wednesday
Linked up with: Wake Up Wednesday