As many of you know - I did not grow up in a church. As a matter of fact I was raised in a very atheist household in a very atheist culture in a very atheist country. When I had learned about God - I had no preconceived ideas or expectations of what following Him might mean.
Today, I have lived more years as a Christian than an atheist and I have become well-versed in church culture (both Western & Eastern European). And I have noticed that most human interactions within the organized church structure are often quite superficial.
In order to become followers of Christ, most people must first come to a place where all of themselves, everything they believe in, everything they hold true must become undone. They must be confronted with their need of a Savior, confronted with the weight of their sin and the distance it has placed between them and God. When that happens, and people choose the way of Christ over the way of the world, they begin looking for a local church where they can learn more about God and experience the true fellowship.
And that's where we fail each other.
Right there - where we look at our brother and sister in Christ - and judge them. Where we look at what they said, what they did (or didn't do) and feel the freedom to have an opinion about it. Where we develop the idea that we always know better than the pastor, or the ministry leader. Where we cultivate the spirit of entitlement because of how much we do or how much we give.
What happens then?
We begin to mask our true feelings because we're afraid that expressing them will cause judgement. We're afraid that the truth will stain us forever, that we'll never be seen in a good light again. It becomes even worse with servants in positions of leadership. For instance, how can a children pastor admit to a parent that they're going through a dry season? What would make them look like? That somehow God was not enough for us.
And so it often becomes futile - the Christian fellowship that is. We come and smile and feel good for a while. But when the event is over, when the church closes the doors - we are left all alone with our thoughts and the real healing has not happened.
Have you ever wondered why pastors fall, why ministry leaders quit, and why there is often so much strife and division among church members? I am not saying this is the main reason but I strongly believe it is one of them.
So where does that leave us?
We need to remember that we are all human. We all struggle. We all make mistakes. We all - ALL - fall short of the glory.
And we need to love. LOVE our neighbor. Like He commanded. Like He did.
A few weeks ago something bad escaped my mouth in a church parking lot and I believe there was a person who heard it. It haunted me for weeks as to what this person might have thought of me.
We become skillful liars, you see. We put on our Sunday's best appearances - even when we're dying on the inside. But beware, my friends, when you keep something bottled in - it starts rotting. Rotting on the inside of you.
Today I came to church empty - but instead of bottling it up and holding it in until it rots - I told someone. When a sweet sister asked me how I was doing - I told her the truth - that I was tired, that I didn't feel like coming to church even though I knew I should, that I felt I could never make everyone in my life happy. When the words poured out - and no judgement followed - healing poured in.
This is what church should be like - a safe place to be yourself. A safe place where you'll be confronted when you're making the wrong choices - but confronted out of love and not out of judgement. A safe place where nothing that you say or do will alienate you from others. A safe place where correction happens when necessary but it always benefits us rather than punishes.
This is a church I want to be part of. How about you?
So I decide today:
1) to try and see the other person's perspective before I form an opinion
2) to do my best to not utter negative things about other people in my life (this includes work, church, and family members)
3) this is a hard one - but still - I choose to remember who I am and Whose I am and remember that my worth is based in His grace & forgiveness - not in what others may think of me.
4) to speak the truth (with discernment of course) - to rather say nothing at all than a superficial half-truth