American tolerance for Christians is very thin. Not all of the criticism of Christianity is unwarranted. Just or unjust, persecution is guaranteed—and will bring blessing to the Church. It is a tool of transformation which will bring the unity Christ prayed for in John 17:1, “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one … “.
We are the Bride of Christ; He deserves a pure, beautiful Church. As we grow into the fullness of Christ, His glory will shine through us. The heart-breaking words of Mahatma Ghandi always pierce my heart:
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
After a few years in church, most Christians intuitively understand that truth Loving Jesus is easy; loving Christians requires divine assistance. Learning to love the Church has helped me grow spiritually more than any other aspect of my life. Loving the Church is an absolute necessity. We are the Bride of Christ; Jesus gave His life for the Church. His passion for every believer is unity. Yet the reality is, division often rocks the Church and finding one’s way in the Church can be confusing and hurtful.
“I had gone to church my whole life but didn’t meet someone who truly lived a life of faith until I was in my 30s.”
“I thought God and church were for Sundays … that you were just supposed to live your life the best you could the rest of the week.”
“The pastor preaches what I ought to do—but I see him in town. He does the things He tells me not to.”
The quotes could go on but the heart of the matter is simple: Hypocrisy happens in all of us.
It is not just an excuse for non-believers who do not want to go to church. Everyone has blind spots; we need the Church—the members of the Church—to rub against us and reveal those spots. We don’t mean to be hypocritical, and we don’t want to let it continue. The current anti-Christian culture will help us value one another more. It will inspire us to press in, to change what needs to be changed!
Hypocrisy is an atrocity that keeps people from seeing the Glory of God. Confronting the impurities in the Church requires each of us to face the things in our own lives that do not bring glory to God. It is not an easy process, but the Groom who pledged Himself to us is worthy. We must pursue purity with passion! The process of growing is challenging and painful but produces joy and peace. When our hearts beat only to please the Father, our life unites seamlessly with Christ and others.
Eliminating hypocrisy happens when we grow up spiritually. We learn to walk in truth allowing love and law to join together to produce maturity. Love alone produces a mud pit; law alone produces a rut. Together, though, they form the Way. God is love and Jesus fulfilled the Law. The New Testament does not abolish the Law, it fulfills it. The pendulum of the Church sways chaotically in one direction or the other; the goal of the Church must be to serve as a plumb line that helps others know God.
Mature Christianity is the most challenging path of life anyone can choose. Far from a crutch, it requires us to surrender our very lives. Christ died for us; He wants us to live for Him. Developing the disciplines of faith (prayer time, Bible reading, fellowship) are necessities. Studying with others is a great pursuit; a myriad of resources are available online and in print to facilitate study. Some of my favorites include: Search for Significance, Victory Over Darkness and Beyond Belief. There is no end to the growing we can do. We enter Eternal Life as soon as we receive Christ … don’t waste another moment.
What keeps you from growing? What helps you grow the most?