One day (last year) while on my daily scroll of Instagram I came across a post from famous radio personality Charlamagne The God about famed singer Jennifer Hudson cheating on her fiance with “Gospel” producer Mali Music. He insinuated that situations like these cause people like him, skeptics of the church and/or religion, to choose not to go.
But I get it…
Many Christians have been taught and trained to believe that Christianity is a guided by a bunch of commandments, rules, and restrictions found in a huge leather-bound book with HOLY written on the front cover. Week in and week out, mothers drug their children and grandchildren to huddle inside churches to hear pastors, deacons, deaconesses, and church mothers, sing songs of Zion (I love songs of Zion by the way) followed by devotional and sermons proclaiming, “holiness is still right, and hell is still hot!” In other words, if you don’t get right, act right, live right, and be right, then you’re going to hell on scholarship.
And right means not being human. It means not failing and falling. It means… Well, it means that every action other than going to church everyday, reading your bible everyday, praying all day, and doing your best not to do otherwise.
Okay, maybe that’s a bit over-exaggerated but I’m sure this is how some people feel. Sin, as many have been taught in church, is everywhere and can overtake anyone, and the Bible is the only way to know how God wants us to live. Over emphasis on sin and living to achieve a seemingly unattainable standard has left many people who desire to be a part of the church hopeless.
And on the other hand, when church leaders fail to live up to this unattainable standard as well, even more damage is done. People, like Charlamagne, have ammunition to blast the church for failing to live up to the standard many have been judged by. Church leaders quickly appeal to the grace offered by Jesus to all humanity but unfortunately deaf ears and hardened hearts is the response of the outcast.
But here is the truth… (good news)
The church is not perfect… and it never was supposed to be. At least not in our limited understanding of perfection. It was created to spread the grace-filled, life-altering love God has for all imperfectly flawed, sin-prone humanity for the transformation of the world. From sign-picketing evangelicals to fire and brimstone Pentecostals, and everyone in between, we are all in need of this grace and love that transforms us. Church attendance, regardless of its frequency does not absolve this need. Yet when the church acknowledges Christ’s grace and love, the world is a better place and glorifies the God who created it.
Glad you asked! Our flaws and imperfections should highlight to others that there is a God who loves us perfectly, just as we are. When we receive that love, it is our job to share that with others. Does this mean that we should accept all forms of foolishness and detrimental behavior? Absolutely not. However, the rod of love disciplines justly, not harshly. Love, when selfless, intentional, and forgiving, softens hardened hearts, corrects poor behavior, grants wisdom in relationships, and steers the church and all connected toward God.
Let me be honest…
I’m biased here. I believe, wholeheartedly, that there is no other single institution that can transform the world for the greatest good like the Church. Every church. The full connection of churches all over the world. I am too invested in the church to believe otherwise, because the power of love and grace churches are to embody changed my life. Taught me how to love my neighbor: both the people next door and the one on the street. Taught me how to use my privilege (in whatever social forms I have them: male, middle-class, etc) to combat prejudice (word back to Charlamagne). It was and is the church, full of cranky church ushers, cigarette smoking deacons, lying laity, wandering eye having pastors, money hungry trustees and church boards, and every other imperfect soul, that pushed and pushes me toward fulfilling my purpose and into the loving arms of God.
And I and the world is made better for it!