16 So we aren’t depressed. But even if our bodies are breaking down on the outside, the person that we are on the inside is being renewed every day. (2 Cor. 4:16 CEB)
Every once in a while I get in a conversation with someone about church and matters of faith. Usually somewhat isolated and from out of nowhere, I suppose because I am a preacher-creature, they say something like, “I don’t go to church because the church is full of hypocrites”.
I don’t often try and mount an argument at this point. One reason I do not argue is because I suspect that when people say something like this one of two things is happening. Either the person is speaking from a place of genuine pain coming from a difficult experience, or they are trying to pick a fight or be defensive, or all of the above. In any of these cases, trying to forcefully advocate faith and argue for being a part of a community of faith won’t get me very far.
Another reason I do not argue about this is because there is a ring of truth to the statement. No church will ever live up to the image of the ideal church that others place upon it, or the hopes that those that are a part of the church place on themselves.
Let me explain. If I am a believer in Jesus Christ in a biblical sense, I acknowledge that I am a sinful, broken person seeking to serve a perfect Savior that I believe is the only hope to make me whole, and in fact the only hope for the whole world. And I also acknowledge that although I am growing to be more like Jesus (I John 3:2), I am still a work in progress. I will be until the day I die.
As a Christian pastor, I see amazing things every day that God does in and through his people by the power of the Holy Spirit. I also see how truly messed up people can be, even people who say that they are believers in Christ. This does not surprise me. I know that as believers we are not even what we want to be, for even when we want to do right, we end up doing the wrong thing (Romans 7). I know that like unfinished works of art, God is still working upon each of us. And I know deep down in my heart that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life—and I am compelled to follow him, and to participate in a community of faith because Christ draws me, and I know that even through the difficult moments in community God is making me into the person, and making you into the person, that he created us to be.
I have often issued a humorous invitation or threat, depending on how you look at it, to my congregation. I have often said that I am tempted to have a banner printed and placed on the front of our church building that says this, “No Perfect People Allowed, All Others Welcome”.
There is no such thing as a perfect person, other than Jesus. There is also no such thing as a perfect congregation of Jesus. The Church around the world is, I believe, the hope of the world. It is also continuing to be under construction. God is still working on his people, still working with his people. Seeking to make them whole. Seeking to work through his people to mend the world. God is still building his people, with Jesus Christ as the foundation stone or cornerstone. Thank God for his patience with me. Thank God for his patience with us. And thank God for the beauty and truth we find in the middle of the mess of life, and the light we find through the church in the darkness of this world. Thank God for the unearned gifts we received, including our own salvation. Thank God for his grace. Amen.