Fair or not fair, the most common excuse given for not becoming a Christian involves hypocrisy in the church. I was in Barnes & Noble the other day and struck up a conversation with a retired black man. He told me that he used to go to church, but after his wife died, he’d had a hard time fitting in. He related how he visited different churches in the county and when people in the church saw his Obama bumper sticker they wouldn’t even talk to him. His assessment was that he could do quite well with God and without the church. Eventually he embraced a new age philosophy espousing himself as “god.”
Whether his observations of the body of Christ were true or tainted, I don’t know. But I do know that God’s plan has been to entrust his story to those who believe. We need his church, even when it behaves badly. Dorothy Sayers writes that the three great humiliations Christ has undergone include the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, and the Church.
It is easy for us to criticize the church at large. But it’s important to ask ourselves whether our actions show that we are serving a God whose “love is better than life” (Ps 63:3). Or do we live as functional atheists? We speak of God as our all-powerful loving Lord, but our fears, insecurities and control tendencies say otherwise. We proclaim Christ, but all too often live more like unbelievers than believers.
In his book, Radical, David Platt writes: “We have taken the infinitely glorious Son of God, who endured the infinitely terrible wrath of God who now reigns as the infinitely worthy Lord of all and we have reduced him to a poor puny Savior who is just begging for us to accept him.”
If we hope to change the world’s perception of the church, it begins with a personal inventory. We must first recognize what our lives are mirroring….what kind of Jesus do people see in us? A poor puny Savior undeserving of total devotion, or the God whose outrageous love and sovereign plan shines through all we do? Are we making the true Christ visible or are we reflecting some poor imitation?