Monday, September 3, 2018

Why Did My Church Treat Me That Way?

Every day, it seems, I have an encounter with someone that serves as a spark for these devotions.  Yesterday, I was talking to someone about how a particular local church (not the one we are attending) had treated a relative of theirs.  I have add similar conversations in the past with other people.  The local church is supposed to be a haven.  A place where Christians gather together. A place where you can be vulnerable and find compassion and encouragement. That is certainly the Lord’s intent.  It is, in fact, that very place, but there is a glitch – it’s called people. 

The local church can only function as it was intended when the people in the local church are saved by faith and are being led by the Spirit.  But there are a number of variables in this equation. 

First.  Not all the people who attend a local church are Christians.  You can’t know them by looking at them.  Or perhaps even talking with them.  They may be faithful attenders.  Even tithers.  They may be involved on Sunday school or small groups.  Keith Green, a Christian singer, said being in a church building  doesn’t make you a Christian any more than being in McDonalds makes you a hamburger.  The church building is not what makes the Church the Church. Faith in Jesus and obedience to the will of God does that. 

So, if you approach someone at church and expect them to be or do as a Christian when they are not, you will be disappointed .. and most likely disillusioned.  It is like when I go to Home Depot and ask someone with an orange Home Depot vest on a question about a tool or product in the store.  They don’t have a clue, but they do have a vest!  And yes, I am disillusioned with Home Depot.  And I have adjusted my expectation accordingly.  

Second.  Not every Christian attending the church is walking in obedience by faith.  There are many Christians, always have been, that are not growing in their faith.  They are so immersed in the world and the things of the world, they are indistinguishable from the those that are lost and headed for hell.  Expecting spiritual help from them is like one teenager telling another teenager “I will be there for you.”  What does that mean? One drowning person telling another drowning person, “I will be there for you.” If a Christian is living a carnal life, they have nothing Spiritual to offer you.  Don’t be surprised when you ask for a fish and they give you a stone.  It is the best they have to offer.

Years ago, during a men’s prayer meeting I was leading, I encouraged them men to be open about their lives and pray for one another – a Biblical mandate. (James 5:16) “Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and wonderful results.” One of the men said “No way! If I do that I will hear what I said from somebody that is not in this room!” And sadly, that may not be too far from the truth.  Not everyone in the room was a Christian walking in obedience to the Spirit.

Third.  There is always the possibility that you are the problem.  I know that is a stretch.  But if you are dealing with the consequence of your sin and you have not repented, then you are part of the problem.  Jesus said (Matthew 7:3-5) "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.”  Often times we are not looking for spiritual solutions but merely relief. When we don’t get it, we blame others – even the local church.

The bottom line.  Very often we look to the church for solutions when we should be looking to the Church.  Do you see the distinction?  In the case of the conversation I had, the person affected was questioning their faith and God because of how the church had responded to them.  I quote this verse often – (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) “God is the God of all comfort who comforts us in our afflictions so we might comfort others with the same comfort we, ourselves, have received.”  That is the Church in action. Use discernment when you seek help from the Christian community. Don’t misjudge or condemn the local Church by seeking comfort from those who are incapable if giving it.  And make certain your heart is right before God when you do.  CHARLEY

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