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Church’s message: “You’re not okay the way you are!”

January 19, 2010

There are days I struggle to love the Church. Overall, I love it deeply and passionately. I have been raised in the church since the day I was born, and have been a Christian since I was 15 years old, but today is one of those days where I look at the Church (the global Christian body of believers) and I shake my head wondering why God let’s us continue. It is one of those days where I am disillusioned and see the flaws and failures so vividly. It is also one of those days where I grieve because I realize that I have been too much a part of the problem.

Over the past week or so I have heard so many non-Christian’s share their hearts and views. They have told people to stop praying for Haiti because it doesn’t work. They have accused us of being judgmental, harsh, unwavering, homo-phobic, and unloving. They have said God is a murderer, that he causes pain and destruction, that he doesn’t care about the lost/lonely/hurt/abused/scared/needy of the world. I have seen statistics about how Christians are not stepping up to care for the poor and needy and how too often our mouths speak words that do not build up and encourage but instead we speak words that cause pain, brokenness, and drive people away.

There is a message that the Church has been communicating, at least the American Church, that is destructive, that is untruthful, and that is not God’s heart. One of the loudest and most prominent messages I hear from the Church is that “You’re not okay the way you are!” Over and over again I hear stories about people that are turned away because they are not good enough, have sinned, fall short of perfection, don’t fit the mold, have faults, and rub someone the wrong way. If you have addictions, failures, and shortcomings in your life then you likely don’t fit into the church. I find few who feel they can share honestly and openly with their church about who they are, what they struggle with in life, and what they truly think and feel down deep. Those deepest thoughts and beliefs are the truth about who we are, and are also what we don’t feel we can share. Over and over my heart has broken as I hear stories about the judgment, rejection, abandonment, and disregard for life that is expressed by others in the church. I look deep at my own heart and wonder how many times I have turned my back, turned a blind eye, or expressed that someone is not good enough. I think back to my youth kids and wonder how many of them have felt that I didn’t accept them for who they were, but instead just wanted them to be someone else, someone that fit my mold better.

Then I turn to scripture and what do I find…..I find stories of Jesus asking 12 men to leave their life and follow him. He didn’t ask them to change. He didn’t tell them that they weren’t good enough to be his disciples. I see Jesus allowing a woman who was a known adulterous to stand before men with grace and confidence when he asked the one who was without sin to throw the first stone. I see Jesus telling the Pharisees that their beliefs were not correct and that they had things mixed up but never telling them that they were not okay. I see Jesus pointing the low, lonely, hurt, needy, lost, disillusioned, and confused to a God who said, I call you my own and accept you not just as a friend but as my children who are heirs to my entire kingdom. Jesus didn’t come to save those who were righteous and have it figured out. He didn’t come to save those who tell others that they are not good enough. He came for those who were desperate for him, those who wanted him but didn’t feel they could approach so they snuck up to touch his robe or watched him from a tree hoping to see him from afar. He came to save those who were lost, in bondage, and captured by sin, brokenness, and disillusionment. He came to save me because today that is who I am. I am lost, and unsure of what the future holds. I am in bondage to untruths that still occupy my mind and heart and lead me astray. I am captured by the lies that surround me and by my own shortcomings. You see, I already know that I am not okay the way I am. I live with myself every day and I have seen and known that for a long time. I don’t need the Church to keep telling me that. I need the Church to tell me that there is a God who loves me anyways. I need the Church to love me enough to stand by me and I grapple with the fact that I am really messed up and need God more than life itself. I need the Church to show me that they can be people of their word. I need the Church to have faith that I can be different because Christ came to give me new life and to set me free.

There are days I struggle to love the Church. Overall, I love it deeply and passionately. It is one of those days where I am disillusioned and see the flaws and failures so vividly. It is one of those days where I refuse to give in to my disillusionment and rather than turning away I am going to ask the Church to change. It is one of those days where I am going to believe that God still is in charge and that although over and over again we turn away, fail, and are rebellious and unloving people I know with all I have in me that God it not telling us that we are not okay, but instead he is saying “Come”, “Follow me”, “I love you and have redeemed you”….He is saying “You are okay with me just as you are today!”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 26, 2010 1:40 am

    Just wait, Sherie … the church, and the “leaders” who run what is called these days the church is rapidly being called to judgement.

    The main problem with the church today is the same problem that Tozer spoke about almost 50 years ago – the church’s emphasis these days is either on “I’m OK, you’re OK”, or “you’re sinning , you don’t fit our idea of what a good Christian should be”.

    I’m here to tell you that *both* attitudes are completely and totally wrong. Jesus knew that the men he asked to follow him would be changed by his message or leave. We have been called to repentance, not to just wander into church, be patted on the head and told our sins are forgiven, and everything’s OK, because it’s not. Many “seeker-sensitive” churches are doing a great job of bringing people in, but not leading them to the next steps – repentance, baptism, and being filled with the Holy Spirit. Other churches take the complete opposite tack, saying that you have to be perfect to be in the body of Christ. What nonsense!

    If you read what Jesus said about the Pharisees, be certainly told them that they were *not* OK! They were as wrong as wrong can be, because they were leading people astray with their emphasis on the letter of the law and completely ignoring grace, and Jesus called them on it, calling them “vipers” and “empty vessels”. Jesus didn’t allow the adulteress to “stand with grace and confidence” – she was scared to death! But Jesus knew her heart – and so he released her from the traditional punishment, telling her to “go, and sin no more.” What a wonderful example of grace!

    Jesus stands in front of you with his hand out – his message is, “Yes, Sheri, I know that things aren’t OK – but here’s the way out. I’m right here beside you, and I will love you and hold your hand and help you through this!” His message hasn’t changed in 2000 years – repentance, water baptism, and baptism in the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist preached repentance and water baptism, and Jesus said that he would send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, and that is what changes us from the inside out, not our own efforts. Acts is full of people who were filled with the Holy Spirit and were full of joy because of it. 🙂

    • January 26, 2010 11:16 am

      Ed, thank you so much for your comments. You are absolutely right that Jesus called out the Pharisees, and there are others he spoke to at times to tell them their words and/or actions were wrong. To Peter he even said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”

      I have been a part of both types of churches you mention, plus also a lukewarm one, and I absolutely agree that the attitudes are wrong. I love the Church so much that I want to see us change. I want to see us living by Scripture, calling people to righteous living, and to change.

      You hit on exactly my heart at the end. There are times where we need to speak to something in someone’s life and say something is not okay. I firmly believe that we need to lovingly hold others accountable and help each other to move from sin and toward righteousness. The key is it has to be done in love. The message should never be that the person is not okay, but the circumstances and how things are being walked out are not okay, however like you said there is a way out. We know that God has said he will never fail or forsake us, and he sent his Son and the Spirit to be with us. I just hope we can start telling others that even though things are not okay, there is a way for us to be okay as we find new life in Christ. There is a way out, a gift beyond all measure that brings freedom, not condemnation and guilt. There is a way to find hope, joy, and true grace. It all starts with love….love for God and love for our neighbor. Seems like that has been said a few times before. 😉

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