Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Bone To Pick

                I have a bone to pick today. In fact, it angers me when I think about it, and I find myself asking, “I wonder what Jesus thinks about this?” My bone that I want to pick is with our modern day American churches. In the past few months I have had phone calls, emails, texts and met with women and men who are being judged by their church families. These are sold out Christians, who believe in a God full of grace. They believe that God is Father, Jesus is Christ and that His Holy Spirit is living in us and through us. These are some of the most die-hard Christians I know, yet, their very own church family is treating them like they are lepers, diseased with sin, and are being ostracized from the very church that claims to love Jesus, the Savior of the world. And all these fellow brothers and sisters of mine have done is love the same sinners that Jesus died for, and tried to be an example of grace to those who have fallen.

                What has happened to our churches in America today? When did we begin turning Jesus loving people away? When did acting like Jesus within the church body become a reason to kick someone out of fellowship and treat them like they were sinners? If Jesus was willing to eat with sinners, have prostitutes wash His feet, tax collectors, thieves and murderers accepted into His Kingdom; then what right do we have as a church body to turn them away? We don’t. Have we forgotten why Jesus died upon the cross? Have we forgotten that Jesus did not come for the healthy but for the sick?
                We put limitations upon people and tell them they can’t be a Christian if they do this, and if they do that, and that unless we are perfect in our walks there is no place in the church body for them. I can honestly say that I don’t blame the secular world for turning their backs on Jesus. Because, as I have seen lately, there is not a whole lot of Jesus being seen in our churches today. I see a body of people going to church, judging the woman who comes in with a low cut blouse and tight jeans, not even thinking that maybe she was out all night and heard from the Lord who told her to come and find Him. Instead, the body looks at her and instantly judges her for her lack of clothing.
  And they give an excuse for their judgment. They tell her that her clothing tempts the men in the fellowship, or they tell her that it is inappropriate attire and ask her to come back next week with something more “churchish”. What if this woman that you have just become judge and jury over has no other clothes, what if she is homeless, or living in a shelter because her husband was abusive? We as a church body (I believe) have taken it upon ourselves to become judge and jury over sinners. As far as I can tell in the Bible, there is only One Judge and there is only One Jury- and we are not it.
                The One True Judge took this woman’s sins as well as yours upon Himself and nailed them to a tree. He took the unbelieving young man who just walked into your sanctuary and said, “You are free, I have taken your penalty upon Myself.” We talk about brotherly love within our churches, but all I seem to find is you are loved when you follow the rules set forth by the elders in the church. Where in the Bible does Jesus tell sinners to go and clean themselves up, begin to walk the way that the church desires us to walk and then come to Me? I don’t find it. In fact, I see the opposite. I see a Savior who reaches out to the worst of the worst, the sinner of sinners and says, “Come”. I see a Savior who looks at us and says, “I know your sins, I know your life, and I love you. In fact, I died for those sins, for those mistakes, for those wandering steps you are taking. I died.” He died- the church did not.
                We as a church body have turned people away because we have painted a picture of a Jesus who only wants those who are worthy. I am not worthy. In fact, neither are you! What right do we have to look at an unbeliever who is struggling with understanding Salvation, but has a heart to know what it means, what right do we have to turn our backs on them? If we read through the book of Acts we will see the Apostles travelling around looking for those who were in sin, looking for those who needed a Savior. But we as a church have made it pretty clear that unless you are saved according to certain guidelines as laid out in the sinner’s prayer, unless you are completely washed clean from all your sin, you cannot be a Christian.

                The Jesus that I know and love, He doesn’t care if you are filthy, He doesn’t care what kind of clothing you wear, He doesn’t care what kind of car you drive, and He doesn’t care where you live. All He cares about is you- your heart and His love for you. He reaches out to sinners every single day. But then they come into our churches and feel judged, condemned and made to feel like they have to abide by the rules set forth in the church bi-laws. We turn our backs on them because they don’t fit into the clique that we have formed, or they don’t look like someone we would normally associate with.  What has happened to our churches in America? When did we get the idea that we can exalt ourselves above God and judge others? When did God the Father come to us and say, “You are judge over all sinners?” When did Jesus give up His authority to judge to us?  
                What if we stopped judging one another and just started to love one another as Christ loves us? What if we looked at sinners as people, as children that God created and who need the love of Christ as much as we do? What if we stopped pointing the fingers at others and turned that finger around on ourselves? What if that sinner you just judged was Jesus? What if Jesus came to your church building in rags, smelling like He just came from the nightclubs, what would you say to Him?

                Church is not the place where people come to be judged, church is who we are, it is who I am, and it is who I was created to be. The only One who has any right to judge me or to judge a sinner is the One who was willing to die for them. Are you willing to have thorns driven into your head, whipped to the point of death, then placed upon a wooden cross and spikes pounded through your hands and feet? Until we as a “Church” are ready to take that upon ourselves, perhaps we shouldn’t take judging up either.

                These words that I have written are from the heart of a sinner who was saved by grace. I was not saved by the church or by the bi-laws written by them. I was saved by Jesus Christ, who loved me, even while I was yet in my sins and who gave His life for me. He did not judge me for my sins, but asked me to only believe in Him and let Him wash away the sins for me. He did not ask me to go and clean myself up, say this particular prayer and then follow these rules, He only said to me, “Do you believe?” and I responded, “Yes, Lord I believe.” Then He took my hand and said, “You are Mine and I am yours, forever and ever, sinner and all.” Amen and Amen.