“What does your husband do?” A very normal making-small-talk kind of question.
Also very normal for the conversation to halt or change course as soon as I answer. As many of you know, my husband is a pastor which unfortunately often means people act extra “spiritual” around us or better yet keep their “mask” on and a safe distance.
So refreshing though was a recent conversation with someone I had just met. My answer to that question did not all of the sudden cause her to tame her tongue, filter her thoughts or pretend to be anyone other than who she is. Instead she preceeded to empathize with what a hard “job” I have and to tell me why she prefers to avoid the church.
I loved it! Not that she doesn’t see the need to be connected to a church body, but the fact no walls hid her true self and thoughts. I mean, how can you get to know someone if all you see is the facade – and you don’t really know who they are? But she was real – real honest – and therefore we could have a meaningful conversation, instead of the superficial fluff that catagorizes far too many of our relationships.
But, back to her reason for being disinterested in church. A reason Christians need to hear because her experience with Christians and the church is far too often felt by way too many.
In essence she said: WHILE GRACE MAY BE PREACHED, WORKS IS WHAT IS PRACTICED.
She is absolutely right and I want no part of that either!
There is a disconnect between what we claim to be true about the gospel and what we really believe. The good news of the gospel gives us a Savior who died a sacrificial death for our sins, but it doesn’t end there. He also credited his perfect, sinless, holy, righteous life to us and that is how God sees His children!
All of our sin – past, present and future – has been dealt with at the cross so there is nothing we must do to earn His favor. We are free to be deeply loved, broken sinners with a never ending flow of grace. And every one of us is in this same boat.
- If this is true, why then do we pretend otherwise?
- Why do we hide our struggles and sin?
- Why do we want others to think we have it all together and are “better” than we are?
- Why do we insist others must live up to a certain standard we impose?
- Why do we distance ourselves from those who are “messy” and more visibly broken than us?
- Why do we think our good works and high morals are what matters?
- Why aren’t we free to fail?
- Why aren’t we free to confess our sin and seek forgiveness?
- Why aren’t we captivated by Jesus but stay so self-absorbed?
- Why do we not see the idols we are worshipping instead of the One true God?
- Why do we insist on remaining so guarded to others?
- Why can’t we be honest about what’s going on in our lives and hearts?
- Why do we live a lie if we’ve been freed by the gospel?
These questions for self-examination could go on and on. But here is the point: Jesus came for sinners – the broken and messed up – not for those who think they are holy and righeous or in need of no fix.
So when we sit in church and in our holy huddles and go about our lives thinking our moral behavior and good deeds make us “good” Christians we speak a lie about the gospel. We are acting as the Pharisees did pointing our judgmental noses down at all those “sinners” not seeing the sin and discrepency in own hearts. Inadvertantly instead of witnessing to the gospel grace and freedom Jesus gives, we give off a ‘holier than Thou’ vibe that makes it seem like measuring up to perfection is what God requires.
This is not the gospel of grace. That is the law, done away with when Jesus came. Is there any wonder people aren’t attracted to the church or believers when this is what we seem to be about? And because deep in our hearts we know we also fail to measure up, we are faking our own spirituality!
For the sake of His kingdom and to the testimony of His grace, know that “Christ has set you free” so you are free to admit your sin, struggles, and pain without fear of condemnation. “Do not submit again to this yoke of slavery” that lead Christians to believe having it all together and getting better is required. That is not the gospel and does more to distance others than to attract. (Galatians 5:1 partially paraphrased). See the beauty in taking off the masks and being known, knowing the greater testimony is that we have a God who loves sinners who see their need for forgiveness and grace!
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