Many blame our culture, but Christians have thrived in societies much more adverse than ours. After Exxon and BP’s oil spills their PR image plummeted. They spent millions trying to win back public respect. The church may have a more difficult task of gaining its reputation in the minds of the public. Of course, the message of Christ’s eternal kingdom and its high standards have always been a bit much for folks to swallow. Yet modern U.S. Christianity has been alienating others in many other ways:
- By taking on the role of society’s moral policeman. Our very public efforts to change laws dealing with mostly the single issue of sexual behavior, has caused outsiders to view Christians as puritanical despots. It’s true St. Paul wrote that individual Christians should point out others sins (…Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather [expose, reprove, convict, refute] them. (Ephesians 5: 11). I doubt he meant we should be more known for our outrage over those who support abortion, homosexuality, etc., than our love for them.
2. Her many scandals. We need to be embarrassed over Catholic and Protestant leaders’ indiscretions. However, we focus only on the sexual ones. Equally troublesome is the image the public has towards scandals surrounding greed for material things. The apostles emphasized that the public should view both leaders and members to be of “good repute”.
3. Her many disputes and divisions. Outsiders wonder about the validity of folks who claim God is love, yet have so much trouble getting along. These divisions are hardly ever caused by rank and file Christians. From the 3rd century on, they have been the result of church leaders disputing doctrines peripheral to the essentials. They tend to believe unity means agreeing over doctrinal matters. It’s more like laying our differences on the altar of Christ’s love and unity. Should we ignore or argue with those who believe that
- Jesus is both divine and human?
- That Jesus died for our sins and his body was raised on the third day?
- Salvation is only through Him?
- He is our Savior and Lord?
- Salvation is by grace through faith that leads to good works and righteous living?
Have we grieved the Holy Spirit by our many divisions and splits, rendering Christ’s body impotent to win others to Christ? If so, her leaders bear the bulk of responsibility. Too often they have put doctrinal correctness ahead of Christ’s love. Jesus said we will be known by our fruits, meaning our behavior, not our doctrines. It’s sad to see churches next door to each other compete with each other for members rather than cooperating with them to win their lost neighbors.
Can God bless a divided church that continues to disregard Christ’s clear command to church leaders in John 13: 34, 35; 15: 12, 19? Neither can he bless her when so little effort is made towards seeing Christ’s passionate prayer for church unity in John 17: 21-23. It’s so sad to me that a thousand church leaders can come together to meet and greet a political candidate, but will not come together to do the real work of the church.
May we heed the inspired words of the apostle: “Endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace….be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God for Christ’s sake forgave you.”
O Lord, forgive us for our many divisions. Have mercy upon us and lead us back to you as we find our way back to one another