Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Thinking About Stuff: Part 1

Something that's been kicking around in my brain lately: How has the church gotten so off track in the way we treat (and thus appear to) the rest of the world? It's a big topic so I'm going to start this as a series and take it in bits and pieces. I'd really like feedback on this subject so if you disagree with anything I say, please comment and tell me! I'd really like to hear the opinions of my non-Christian readers too. ;) Maybe we can start a dialogue here where people actually listen to what others have to say. Wouldn't that be something new and exciting!

Also, I know I'm generalizing here. I'm not trying to say there isn't anyone doing what they should be in the church, just commenting on what I see on a large scale.

"Why does everyone hate us?"

In my experience, many Christians seem so isolated in a world of church events & Christian social circles that they're able to convince themselves that non-Christians, as a whole, seem to hate them because the unbelievers are convicted by the Christians' holiness and righteous living. Gack.

There's little reaching out on the part of the church to those outside of it. Oh we pretend to reach out: "Take this tract and we'll give your kid Halloween candy!"

"Come to youth group and we'll let you roller skate in the rec room!"

"Come in, look like us, and we'll accept you!"

But the truth is that very rarely is an offer of help put forth without strings attached. We serve so that others may be won to our cause, not out of love. Can you imagine a church program based on showing love to the homosexual community, not with the intention of "curing" gays or making them into model Christians, just loving them? This has nothing to do with the argument over whether homosexuality is a choice or a biological imperative. It has nothing to do with whether living a homosexual lifestyle is a sin, or whether it's healthy or rewarding to society. Do not let these issues interfere with what should be a simple question. Are we or are we not called to love all people? And are we only called to love them if and after they repent, or is the state of another's heart the province of God alone?

We've lost the central point of Christ's message.



l i s a said...

meanness, snobbery, trickery? theology that makes no sense unless something connects to you and you can accept the mystery of everything else? fear? i guess i can think of lots of reasons.

perhaps just loving people unconditionally is actually the best way to practice the faith?

looking forward to others' contributions.

Anonymous said...


yumbrad said...

I really like your post, and agree that's the direction the "church" generally errs, when speaking of what secular culture views as the church. Life is an exciting, terrifying, joyful short jaunt and there's not enough time to do much besides loving - certainly not enough time to judge, since "Man looks at outward appearances, but the Lord looks at the heart."

But it does get a little tricky when you realize that the church *is* also supposed to grow us up in Christ - so it is supposed to challenge us and point towards what we should be doing and away from what we shouldn't. If the church does it well, the message is so full of truth and hope that it's inspiring and touches the "eternity" that God has placed in each of our hearts - even when it convicts us. If the hearer is not receptive, they'll hear "judgmentalism"... But in the end, that should be the hearer's choice during teaching - overall, I wholeheartedly agree that the church body's goal should move towards loving people (without condoning sin) and away from judging people.

jess said...

Thanks, commenters!

Lisa, can you expound a bit on "mystery?" What exactly do you mean by that?

Brad, thanks for weighing in! And also for providing the world (me) with incredibly cute babies. I can't wait to see Maisie!!! I think I'm bringing you guys dinner on Wednesday, any preferences (besides no dairy)? :)

I was going to respond to your point here but then I decided that what I want to say is what I'm already working on for the next few installments, so I'm going to save it.

litabug said...

Ok, I wasn't going to comment, but you had to go and beg again. :) My theory, for what it's worth?
Our problem is laziness.

1. We're too lazy to study the actual Bible and chew through what's in it, so we pick a church and buy whatever they try to sell (traditions, warm and fuzzy feelings, politics, weird rules).

2.Churches, denominations, and movements get too big to actually work in individual lives, so they take the lazy way out and choose a package of traditions, politics, and weird rules that they can sell.

3. We're too lazy to improve ourselves. Instead of building our spiritual muscles to fight temptation, we isolate ourselves and let those muscles atrophy until an unexpected temptation gets the better of us (hello, scandals).

4. We're too lazy to care for and understand the people around us, especially if they have any warts at all (meanwhile, we conveniently ignore our own).

5. We're too lazy to study the gospel thoroughly enough to be comfortable explaining it to someone who's working from a different set of premises.

6. We're too lazy to continue caring for people for any longer than it takes to deliver a pithy version of our message.

7. Individual Christians are too lazy to actually live that message every day in long-term relationships with unsaved people, so the church as an institution tries to bribe them with events, outreaches and that sort of thing.

I suspect that fear, snobbishness and lack of love are either excuses for laziness or symptoms of laziness.

l i s a said...

ahhh, i think i lost the comment i just wrote. at the risk of repeating myself, i will try to recreate it.

mystery is the opposite of those books i read growing up that tried to explain everything that doesn't make sense in the bible. i believe they were filed under apologetics.

to back off the toes i just stepped on, mystery is the inexplicable and the ineffable of faith. it's the way that God doesn't make sense to me, but yet i know that s/he is somehow real.

Justin said...

I personally think it's impossible to love someone without wanting to see them purified, holy, and righteous. When God looked down on humanity, he loved with an agenda. To seek and save that which was lost.

"Be ye holy, for I am holy". To look on someone and not have a longing to see them united with Christ and living a holy life, then you are not loving them.

So, it's impossible to love someone without an agenda. Love always hopes for the best.

jess said...

Hi Justin, thanks for commenting.

I completely agree. I don't know if I'd use the word agenda but yeah, of course loving someone means wanting them to find salvation, otherwise it would be a strange sort of love. But you can hope for the best for someone and still love them if they choose otherwise. Love always hopes, and keeps trying. And love reaches out without expectation of return.

Justin said...

Just thinking this out. Jesus Christ, when asked by the mob whether or not it was okay to stone the adulteress, extended mercy and did not judge the adulteress. But in a sense, there was an expectation of return. He said with his own mouth, "Go and sin no more."