I hear stories all the time from people who have been hurt by the church in one way or another. These groups are always close to my heart, because I’ve been in that place…I know how it feels. I took an 8-year sabbatical from church leadership because of it. It took that long to process and heal. Let’s face it, when you’re hurt by an organization that calls itself the body of Christ…that’s supposed to model Christ…it cuts a whole lot deeper.
You’d think the body of Christ would know better…would do and be better. But that’s one of the truths about the church. We’re just as screwed up, flawed, broken, doubting, and traumatized as the rest of the world…we just don’t want to admit it because, well, we’re the church…the body of Christ in the world. But we need to admit it. We need to recognize it…and we need to fix it.
The truth about the church is that our faith and witness have to be authentic. That means no covering up our broken parts…no putting on a happy face. We have to admit when we’re wrong. We can’t sweep our mistakes under the rug. We have to be honest and, when necessary, seek forgiveness.
The truth about the church is we need to get rid of our religious agendas…stop trying to win arguments (or converts) and admit that we don’t have all the answers. And it’s OK! We have to stop making our witness to Jesus about a cause we have to defend or a soul we have to save. That’s not our job. Our job is to love our neighbors as ourselves…and I mean all our neighbors. And we need to stop seeing them as another notch on our belt for another soul saved. We need to stop looking at them as another dollar in the offering plate or another positive number on the year-end statistical report.
Our neighbors don’t need us to evangelize them or preach at them or fight with them or judge them (which is usually what happens when we think we have to evangelize them). It’s not up to us to diagnose their problem or their sin…it’s up to us to love them…as they are, for who they are…to listen to their stories…to share their pain (and their joy)…to care for them no matter the cost…to love them as they are, not as we want or expect them to be.
The truth about the church is we are called to be a community…to be a family…where grace, hope, and love abound…where the only certainty is found in wisdom, so it’s ok to ask questions and share doubts. The truth about the church is our table needs to be big enough for everybody. Black or white, rich or poor, young or old, gay or straight, addict or ex-con…there has to be a seat for everyone. Jesus made room for everyone…so should we.
The truth about the church is the only label that really matters is the one that says, “Child of God”…and we all wear it. The world doesn’t get to define you…neither does the church…only God does…and God says, “You are mine, you are loved, and there’s nothing you can do about it because nothing will ever separate us.”
The truth about the church is it is full of human becomings… constantly in the process of being renewed and transformed. The truth about the church is it is made up of people like you and me. It will be friendly if we are friendly. It will be loving if we are loving. It will be generous if we are generous. The pews will be full if we invite people to fill them and then treat them like they belong. Grace will be found when we offer it. The truth about the church is it isn’t a building or a place…it’s people…it could be you and me…and we are beautifully and wonderfully made.