Looking at today’s church, it seems that most have lost touch with the things that are most important to Jesus. Religious people and churches have a tendency to get caught up in behavior modification (“I never smoke, drink, cuss, etc…I read my Bible every day, I fast, pray, etc.”), thinking that this is what’s it’s like to be like Jesus.
Was/is Jesus perfect? YES! Is He a spotless example of a righteous person? YES!
But Jesus’ #1 concern is not our behavior. He already knew that as human beings, our behavior would never be good enough to make us right with God. That’s why He died on the cross, after all – to cleanse us from our sin and imperfection (Hebrews 1:3). Not only that, but He was raised from the dead to make us right with God (Romans 4:25)!
So, our behavior is no longer His #1 priority. Besides, He has given us the Holy Spirit to teach us how to live right. He will help us to work out every single issue of sin we might be dealing with….He’s a great teacher and counselor, and He knows what He’s doing.
No, the #1 concern that Jesus has is this: How we LOVE others.
It seems that most churches today are simply nothing more than social clubs. Only those who fit in are truly welcomed. But for people who don’t look or act the part, they feel a lack of love and acceptance, turn away from church, concluding that God Himself must not love them very much.
Before I became a student of Grace, I was definitely one of those religious snobs, maybe one of the worst that I’ve known. I thought that I was better than “those people”, because I was in church all of the time, and because of the self-righteous belief that I had my act together. I was completely blind to the truth that “God so loved the world” – and that means the whole world!
Now that I am being delivered from religious snobbery, it’s difficult to look at when I encounter it. I have had other Christians literally gasp when we tell them that one of our sons is attending college in Boulder. I can read it all over their faces: “How could you possible let your son go to school with all of those…sinners??” We have been taught by religious teachers that we are to stay as far away from sinning unbelievers. It’s like they have Sin Cooties that could potentially jump on us and infect us!
A while ago, I was helping a couple who lived a alternative lifestyle to find a home (I had been asking the Lord to help me to become more comfortable around people who were not like me, and this couple showed up in my life within days!) As we walked into a coffee shop to talk and sign some paperwork, the religious snob in me tried to rise up! I heard myself think, “What if someone from the church sees me with these people?” In spite of my initial uneasiness, I began to have a great conversation with these folks. By the time our appointment was over, I was so happy that I had met them!
When I got home, I thought back on my initial fear of being seen in public with this couple. The Holy Spirit reminded me: “That’s the same thing they used to say about Jesus!” Realizing that the religious snobs also accused Jesus of hanging out with “those people” too, my heart swelled with joy…I realized that I was becoming more like Jesus! 🙂
I hate to rock anyone’s theology, but Jesus hung out with sinners all the time. He went to parties with them. He had lunch with them. He laughed with them. He cared about them. He was their friend. Jesus didn’t drag all of these people to church. He went to where they were.
He didn’t point out their faults and their problems. He didn’t make their sin the topic of the discussion. He simply loved them. Because of His love for them, they were drawn to believe in Him. Romans 2:4 tells us, “…can’t you see that His kindness is intended to turn you from your sin (NLT)?”
If we really want to be like Jesus and reflect His glory, let’s drop the pretenses and get real with people and ourselves. Let’s stop trying to act like we are perfect – not one of us is “all that”, and the world is can see it! That’s why they call us hypocrites – because we say one thing, but do another. Let’s stop looking down on those that God loves. And I’m not talking just to you – I’m talking to myself as well. If as a church we can simply love others and let all of the other stuff go, we could win the entire world for Jesus!