Monday, June 25, 2007
It frustrates me when people judge an idea or an institution based upon their interaction with one flawed individual. I find myself deeply saddened when I learn that one of my friends or even acquaintances has lost all faith in God because of the impression made by one (or more) believer(s) or one (or more) church(es). I mean, I would not suggest that someone belong to a church where they do not feel welcome. However, all churches, all denominations, all people are flawed (Romans 3:23). No one is perfect and without sin or flaw except Jesus Christ himself and there will never be a perfect church this side of Heaven. A wise man once said (it may have been Martin Luther…I don’t know) that churches are not homes for the righteous but hospitals for the sick. It is our flaws that cause us to need each other and to need God. We show the world God’s marvelous strength not because we are great or powerful or strong…but because we are weak and yet God can use us to do great things (2 Corinthians 12:9). This is why it frustrates me when Christians fail to show Christ’s love and compassion to others. We have all been commanded to not take the Lord’s name in vain (Exodus 20:7). This goes way beyond simply using his name as an interjection when something terrible happens. Rather we must recognize that we are representations of the Lord’s name. We were made in His image (Genesis 1:27), and we were given His name when we were baptized (CHRISTian). So, each day that you recognize yourself as a CHRISTian, or one who follows Christ, or god-fearing or whatever term you’d like to use, you are bearing the Lord’s name in the world. And as that commandment implies, that is not something to be taken lightly. You must realize that your actions are representing Christ to others and the way you behave reflects upon our Lord. As another wise man once said, “You may be the only Bible a person ever reads”. Yes, the Lord has shown us what is right and what is wrong, and we should strive to do that which is good in His sight, but we must also realize that none of us is perfect, and no man’s sin is greater than another’s in the eyes of the Lord because every sin…EVERY SIN drives a wedge between us and God. In Matthew 7, the Lord tells us “Judge not, lest you be judged. For with what judgement you judge, you shall be judged.” That is in the verses directly preceding “And why beholdest thou the mote in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own” (Matthew 7:3 KJV). As one of my favorite hymns says, “they will know we are Christians by our love”. We would be fools to ignore the fact that love is at the very essence of our Lord, for it is because of God’s great love for us that we are living and breathing today (Lord knows we don’t deserve it). Similarly, it is because of God’s great love that we can have hope in life after our deaths. So how do we justify loving those who disagree with us? The Lord tells us to hate the sin, but love the sinner (Ephesians 6:12), and to realize that we are blessed to be a blessing (James 1:17, Luke 3:11, Matthew 24:45). So, we must recognize that each church and each sinner that claims Christ as Lord has been blessed with talents and strengths with which to do the Lord’s work. We must come alongside one another to work for peace and justice, to worship the one true God through the work of our hands and the words on our lips (1 Corinthians 1:10-17). Yes, we all practice differently and our liturgies and catechisms are different, but the one thing that remains the same is that we confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. That is how we are united, that is what allows us to come together and feed off each others strengths, for our weaknesses are many.