The Church has a problem. We have a perception problem. We have a perception of being unloving, unkind, and uncaring. This is what folks say all the time about Christianity, especially American Christianity. Even if we argue fundamentally that these things aren’t true, that the Church as a whole is not characteristic of any of these accusations, the fact is that too many people in the US and throughout the world feel this is true. As a result, we give them the excuse not to believe in God. When I say we, I include myself in this condemnation. I am restarting Francis Chan’s Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God and he makes this statement right up front:
“We need to stop giving people excuses not to believe in God. You’ve probably heard the expression ‘I believe in God, just not organized religion.’ I don’t think people would say that if the church truly lived like we are called to live. The expression would change to ‘I can’t deny what the church does, but I don’t believe in their God.’ At least then they’d address their reject of God rather than use the church as a scapegoat.”
He’s right, and if we admit the truth to ourselves, we know he’s right. We’ve known it all along. What we’ve done as a body of believers is we’ve gotten away from a simple charge from Jesus:
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:14-16, ESV
Jesus told His disciples that they (we) were supposed to be the living embodiment of what the Father was all about. By doing so, the disciples would show the Father to the world. This would give people an opportunity to see God and turn around and praise Him. Note that this isn’t a call to defend our rights or be politically correct. It’s not a call to develop a kingdom or a nation according to our beliefs. And it’s certainly not a charge to attack and demean people with the Scriptures we say we hold dear. Instead, it’s a point blank statement that the way that folks will see God is “by our good works.” In other words, by our service, our caring, our compassion, and our love.
Here’s a test: drive down any stretch of road in your town or city and note each church that you pass by. Ask yourself this simple question, “Is that church known in the community for its good works?” If you want a real test, drive by your own church. Don’t look at the churches from the inside out. Instead, look at the churches from the outside in. Do those who are outside those walls see the light of the people who worship within? How about your own church? If the answer is no, then we’ve given people an excuse. We’ve given them a scapegoat, the church, to reject Jesus. That’s the opposite of what we’ve been commanded to do. If you aren’t currently worshipping somewhere, maybe for this very reason, find a congregation and join it. Choose to be part of the solution and not just an accuser.
If you are a member of a body of Christ, when you ask the question to your own church you find it doesn’t meet the test of Scripture, choose to be the change. Seek after God and ask Him not only to show you where you can serve, but to cause others in the church to desire to do the same. Ask Him to reveal to your body of believers where you can dive in and help with compassion and love. After all, we are reminded that He has prepared good works for us beforehand. Let’s ask Him to honor that promise as we seek to honor the promise that we’ll fulfill Matthew 5:14-16. See, when we surrendered to Jesus Christ, we committed to what He asked His disciples to do. This is one of those things He asked us to do. Let us do it and remove the excuses. Let us do so that those around our churches will deal with God one-on-one.