Wednesday, August 2, 2017
I need this community of hypocrites...
Chapters 2 & 3 of Red Letter Revolution (Claiborne and Campolo) have moved me to tears! At last! I feel like someone actually understands the things in my head and my heart! These two chapters were about the church and living in community. It made me think of my own family and church experience.
When I was in elementary school, something happened to my parents at the church we attended. The result of this event caused my father, who had been a leader in our church, to lose faith in the church. He left and never stepped foot in a church again until my wedding day when he walked me down the isle. He adamantly still believed in God, but he felt that the church was full of hypocrites only out for "the almighty dollar," and felt he could worship God just as well as he was driving the tractor or feeding the sheep. He felt this way until the day he died, which was way too early at the age of 46.
My mother, however, felt it was still important for their children to go to church and learn about Jesus as she and my dad had, in Sunday school. So, she took my brother and me to a different church, where we finished growing up and where I had a firm foundation of the love of God and the loving and saving grace of Jesus placed in my heart that has stayed with me all my life.
But, even though my faith has stayed with me, I have had many times when I questioned the church, no matter which church I was attending. Even today, I question God almost daily. I don't doubt Him or not believe in Him, but I question things that don't make sense to me. Many times, I don't get answers to my questions, and sometimes I still feel frustrated, but my questioning has also brought me closer to God. I look at this world and my heart hurts. There is so much pain, so many broken hearts, so much hate and violence. I want to do more to ease the hurt for others around me.
My dad felt the church was too full of hypocrites, and many young people I meet today feel the same way and don't want anything to do with church. In some of those red letters, in Matthew Chapter 23, Jesus talked about hypocrisy. He explained that many leaders and teachers of the word were too wrapped up in themselves, preaching the right way to go, but not doing it themselves. He called them on it as well, in a most forceful and emphatic manner, in fact. On top of calling them hypocrites, he calls them fools, blind guides, snakes, and a brood of vipers. WOW! This gentle Son of God spoke some serious words to these leaders!
A new church that was started in the name of Jesus, after his death - the church we read about in Acts - was the beginning of what I believe God saw as what he wanted for his people. People living in community, helping each other, lifting each other up, sharing what they had and living and doing life together in the name of Jesus. It started out well, but as is our human nature to do, they messed it up. As history shows us, many horrendous and despicable things have been done in the name of Jesus, and "the church" is really nothing like the first church we see in Acts. Today, many churches strive to be Acts churches, but still many people around the world have left the church behind them.
While I also get fed up from time to time with the hypocritical things I see in churches and Christians today, I also know that I am a hypocrite as well. As Paul says in Romans, 7:15, "I do not understand what I do. For what I WANT to do I do not do, but what I hate, I do." I find myself doing the things I hate! Instead of filling up self-loathing about this behavior, however, talking to some of my trusted friends from church has always helped me, for they too find themselves doing the same thing.
Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." The church needs to be a place where we are honest about our hypocrisy We need to EMBRACE those red words and embrace each other in our hypocrisy. If we are honest with each other, we CAN live in harmony in our faith communities. As he was preparing to leave this earth, Jesus prayed for his disciples and prayed that "they may as one as we are one." That we, as disciples of Christ, could be like the trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three different entities, living as one in heart and mind.
I know my dad's heart was broken over the hurt he felt in the situation that happened to him in his church. He felt he was better off worshiping on his own. I know of so many other people who have felt broken hearted or lost because of hurt they experienced at church. What they don't see is that we NEED each other, hypocrisy, warts and all, to truly live and experience the wonder of Christ's love for us.
I long to see a red letter revolution of people who live out the words of Jesus and embrace each others failures, sins and trials instead of judging them and making them feel they do not belong in church because of the things they do. Instead of reminding people they are going to hell for doing things God tells them not to, SHOW THEM the loving and forgiving grace of Jesus. How are people who are sinning (EVERY ONE OF US!) going to find Jesus' grace if they feel they aren't worthy of even walking through our church doors?
I know I NEED my community off fellow hypocrites around me, who honestly and lovingly help me through life, even when I mess up. I'll let God worry about the sin and I will just show people His love. What if each of us did that every day?