I read the complaints and whining of Christians about their experiences with other Christians and churches and, if it weren’t for the fact that I fall into the same discouragement about churches and Christians from time-to-time, I would scream out, “What a bunch of namby-pamby babies you are!”
But, before I try to make some biblical arguments about the right response to Christians’ failures, I would like to remind us all of something.
Some centuries ago the God-Man Jesus Christ, our Creator, came here as one of us. And though He was sinlessly perfect, holy, loving and kind, He stood in our place at the Bar of God’s judgment , and all of the awful, holy wrath of an infinitely angry God against all the wickedness of all mankind for all time was poured out upon Him! This perfectly lovely, innocent One “who knew no sin” staggered under the load of our sin and His Father’s wrath. He “for the joy that was set before Him” “became sin” for us, bore that justice for you and for me, WITHOUT A WORD OF COMPLAINT.
The physical suffering of Christ on the cross was absolutely NOTHING compared to the spiritual suffering He bore as His Father turned His back upon Him! And, it is imperative that we understand that the Father, being just, did not nor could pull His punches, or lighten the judgment. Christ took it all!
And we, how do we respond when someone at church doesn’t take us seriously, or “offends” us, or “judges” us, or messes up our schedules with all those useless church activities, or drops the ball completely and just plain sins one time too often? Yeah, we’re so important, busy, perfect, and correct that we just walk out the door! We have no time for such fools.
Maybe someone needs to step up and tell things as they are: IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU. That’s right, you heard me! The universe doesn’t revolve around you! IT IS ALL ABOUT JESUS CHRIST! And, when we finally take our eyes off of ourselves and fall at the feet of this “altogether lovely” One, and begin to love, honor and worship Him as we ought, we will find ourselves being transformed, renewed, and strengthened in order to bear with, forgive and encourage others who are, after-all, just like us.
For those of you who have “quit church” because Christians failed you I’d like to remind you that the Lord told a parable just for people like you. He spoke of a wealthy man who called in his servant who owed him mega bucks, far more than he could pay. Since the servant could not pay it, the master ordered him sold as a slave to make payment. The servant fell on his knees begging for mercy, and the master, out of compassion forgave him the entire debt. I’m sure you know the rest of the story, don’t you? Yeah, the servant went out and demanded payment of the petty debt another servant owed him, and the rest is tragic. The fact is that any offense any Christian has committed against us is NOTHING compared with our offenses against God. And, because He has freely and lovingly forgiven us, He demands we forgive each other. End of story.
The question becomes, how do we learn to bear with and forgive people who constantly fail us time-after-time! Maybe the same way people bear with and forgive us as we fail time-after-time? That’s right. One mark of maturity is to realize how fallen our flesh really is, and how often we drop the ball. That people don’t constantly point out our failures is no proof that we are so good, only that others choose to be patient with us. The fact is we all fail repeatedly throughout our lives and will continue to do so until we stand perfect before Christ. Even if we actually sin less often than others, that is no basis for seeing ourselves as superior to them. And, make no mistake about it, when you bail out of church you are declaring yourself superior to those who remain. You don’t want to be “dragged down” by their failures.
This does not mean that we should never change churches. But changing churches is our only option. “No church” is not an option. The New Testament contains no examples of Christians absenting themselves from active participation in a church. There are no “solo” Christians. And, a look at churches like the one at Corinth will silence any argument to the contrary. That church was filled with every imaginable flaw from immorality, to judgmentalism, to cliques, to outright criminality. But, Paul made no room for leaving the church. In fact, He went so far as to say that with regard to the believers “defrauding” one another, that if they could not settle it within the church, rather than going to unsaved civic judges they should rather “be defrauded!” Yes, you read right. Paul taught that even if a brother were to actually rob them, if they could not fix it within the church, they were to neither leave the church nor go to the courts. They were to simply bear with the offense. Unbelievable in a day when if someone just sneezes strangely we hit the exit.
The bear-bones reality of the churches is that one will find in them everything from great, godly saints to new-born believers, to unsaved and uninterested and everything in-between. In fact, the Epistles warn that the churches will, not might, but will become the hosts of not merely immature believers, but false prophets, teachers, even ravening wolves. It has always been that way and will continue thus until Christ chooses to set everything right. And, His admonition is to stay in there, not for our own pleasure or perceived benefit, but, for His sake. He, knowing all this, made no provision for us departing the churches. It is rather a mark of the “last days,” that so many choose to take the easy way out and merely drift through life, unwilling to expend the effort to deal biblically with the reality of their own and other Christians’ fallen “old natures.”
Which is easier to grow, a weed plot or a garden? It’s an easy answer. A weed plot requires no labor, but if you would grow beautiful flowers or vegetables, you must expend considerable effort. And, multitudes of weeds, some quite noxious and durable, create a constant battle. On a spiritual level, the church is intended to be a garden, but we have not only random weeds that sprout up uninvited, we have powerful and malicious enemies, spiritual and otherwise, who actively and energetically seek to interfere and destroy our efforts. A good gardener does not lose heart at the effort necessary to be successful in his efforts, but rather seeks out the best tools to fight off the weeds and protect his garden. So must we for the sake of the “gardens” of the churches. And, regardless of the imperfections of the gardens, they remain a much safer place for a tomato plant then the weed-bed outside the garden’s walls.
It is impossible in a brief paper to answer every objection one might raise or provide a solution to every dilemma. But, suffice it to say that there are times when it is correct to find another church. Studying the New Testament churches, especially the Seven Churches of Revelation 2 and 3 will provide some insight. If one cannot find a satisfactory church, he might reevaluate his own standards for a church to be sure they are thoroughly biblical in the first place. But, if he is convinced that there is truly no church that he may join with a clear conscience, then his options are two-fold: He should either find others who can help him start a biblical church, or he should move to where there is a biblical church. There are no other biblically acceptable alternatives. To simply not participate in a church violates God’s will for New Testament saints. And, don’t respond that if I knew your situation, I would think differently. God knows your situation and He’s the one who has written the Book!
There are many things to learn in the “crucibles” of life, and it sad that churches at times become crucibles when they ought to be gardens. However, when you find yourself in such a situation it is imperative to recall that even such a situation abides under the loving eyes of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and He will provide guidance, wisdom, strength and courage to make the correct choices. However, He will NEVER approve your quitting, ever. But, He will provide that the plans of the enemy to destroy you, the church and others work out, not for your hurt, but for your eternal good if you have a heart to hear His voice and do His will. Romans 8:28 remains in force, and those who wrong Christ’s people will face Him one day. Every wrong, large or small, will be made right! That is really all we need to know.
Worldview Conference with Dr. Wayne Grudem
We are very excited about our second annual Worldview Conference featuring world-renowned theologian Dr. Wayne Grudem on Saturday, February 20, 2016 in Barrington.
Click HERE to register today!
In the morning sessions, Dr. Grudem will speak on how biblical values provide the only effective solution to world poverty and about the moral advantages of a free-market economic system. In the afternoon, Dr. Grudem will address why Christians—and especially pastors—should influence government for good as well as tackle the moral and spiritual issues in the 2016 election.
We look forward to this worldview-training and pray it will be a blessing to you.
Click HERE for a flyer.