Wow. Another year ended, another new year begun. As I considered what to say about 2015, something struck me:
I heard more hard words from believers in 2015 than ever before. No, not “hard words” as in hard things the Lord told people to say. Just hard words. Words spiked with negativity, frustration, even a tinge of hatred.
I’m a PK. A preacher’s kid. What’s more, I’m a PGK—a preacher’s grandkid. As you may imagine, I’ve heard a lot of strange things from fellow Christians during my 58 years of life. But this last year, I heard things that left me shaking my head.
“Christians have done more damage to my faith than any atheist.”
“The organized church is full of hypocrites.”
“Church people are toxic.”
“I hate the church.”
Not too long ago, while at church, I overheard sentiments of the “I hate the church” variety. From someone in church. And I confess, I didn’t hide my “Are you kidding me??” expression. Which drew that person’s ire. The challenges came fast and furious…
“There are good reasons people feel this way. Most so-called Christians are hypocrites. Isn’t it our place as Christians to address the failures of the church and it’s pew-sitters? Jesus condemned the Pharisees and Sadducees. How is what I said any different?”
Well, okay, how do I say this nicely? What’s different is that…
You’re not Jesus.
He had a right to condemn. You? Or me? Not so much.
As for Christians being hypocrites…um, yes. And your point is? Aren’t we all, in our own ways, hypocrites? A hypocrite is simply someone whose actions belie a stated belief. So if you’re a believer and you ever speak in anger to the drivers around/in front of/behind you, lie (yes, even white lies), steal (yes, those cool pens from work do count), gossip, swear (remember Ephesians 4:29?), and on and on—you’re a hypocrite. I mean, let’s be honest. Do any of us live as we profess to live every moment of every day? If not, then the whole pot calling the kettle bit comes into play, yes?
So why am I sharing all this with you? For one simple reason: to remind you, and myself, as this new year begins, that we don’t write for perfect people. After all, what would be the point of that? Perfect people don’t need what we have to say. They’re, you know, perfect. Not in need of understanding or encouragement or help. No, we write for the real people, Christians and nonbelievers (both of which, by the way, you’ll find sitting in the pews). We write for folks who struggle and fail and try again and fail again—all in glorious Technicolor.
That worship leader with an ego the size of Paul Bunyan? You write for her.
That neighbor who lets his little rat-dog do its business on your lawn. Every. Day? You write for him.
That youth pastor who insists on wearing cargo shorts and a baseball hat to your proper church? You write for him.
That sweet little elderly woman who is outraged by the youth pastor’s lack of reverence? You write for her.
That woman who gossips about any and everyone, savoring every nasty tidbit like it’s the finest Belgian chocolate? You write for her.
That man who sits in the dark every night surfing for porn? You write for him.
That woman who has had more affairs than even she can count? You write for her.
That teen who is facing another day of bullying? You write for her.
That young man who spends hours thinking up ways to torment the teen girl? You write for him.
All those “so-called” Christians, as we like to label them, aren’t “so called” because they’re perfect reflections of Christ. They’re called by His name because they, at some time in their imperfect, broken lives, said yes to the Lord’s gift of grace. That they don’t live as they ought really isn’t your business. That’s the purview of the Holy Spirit, and friends, I advise you to stay out of His way. And, if you’re anywhere near as broken as I am, to keep your mouth sealed lest He turn His holy gaze your way. I guarantee you, none of us will stand in the face of His holiness.
Our job as fellow believers? To fix our focus on our efforts to fulfill the great commandment. You know, the one about loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind? Which means we should be looking at HIM. Not at each other. And when we do look at each other, it should be through the eyes of His grace.
As for writers? If you want to write for the Christian market–which means writing for those folks claiming to follow Christ regardless of how good a job they’re doing—you’d do well to write from compassion. From the humble knowledge that you’re just as broken as any of them. Write from the realization that it’s God’s truth, not yours, that sings into their weary, betrayed, betraying hearts and spirits.
Hate the church. Hardly. Friends, you are the church. As am I. Like it or not, we’re all in this deal together. What’s more, we’ll be in eternity together. And that church lady you so despise? Seems to me it would be just like God to plunk her mansion down right next to yours. Maybe even make you roomies. So why not learn to love her in all her brokenness now?
Welcome to 2016, friends. May it be a year steeped in grace and kindness for—and from—us all.