Today, we tried a new church. I know, I know...we sound like church hoppers. It is just that the church we have been going to is almost an hour away and we really want to get involved in our next church home. It just doesn't seem feasible with a toddler and an hour drive to church. So, we tried one closer to home.
It was more traditional, which is hard for me sometimes because I often find myself fighting the "traditional" church ways. I hate legalism and all it entails. I hate having to dress a certain way or be a certain way to feel accepted in a body of believers. Today, the church we tried was talking about this very topic, which made me straighten up in my seat and listen closely. The pastor was preaching on the very topic I have been writing about in my previous blogs: how Christians today seem so unauthentic to the world.
I liked it. I liked that what looked to be a more "traditional" church, recognized the world's view of Christianity and was taking a stand on it. The pastor preached mostly on hypocrisy and how hypocrisy in the church was perhaps one of the things that made Jesus the angriest. The preacher talked about how hypocrisy is NOT struggling with sin as a Christian, because we all do that. Hypocrisy is when our behaviors do not match our beliefs.
It made me think of all the ways my behaviors have not matched my faith. I think the biggest struggle for me has been a critical spirit and a spirit of judgement. I come from a long line of judgemental people and while that is by no means an excuse, it does help me recognize that I have to fight even harder to rid myself of it. Most of the time, my judgement truly comes from a place of love. Weird, I know, but I find when I am passing judgement on someone it is because I desire them to change their actions so that their life would be better (or at least my version of better). I think I just often forget how most of us know what we should be doing and just need someone to love us in spite of our actions.
Often times, I think it is the very things I hate about myself that I am quickest to point out in others:
"You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment?" Romans 2:1-3
It makes me wonder, why instead of passing judgement on someone else who is doing the same thing I am doing, do I not try to change myself? Is it laziness? Is it fear? I am not quite sure what it is in me that allows me to be quick to criticize my neighbor while turning around and doing the same thing myself or a variation of it.
I think for me, I need to truly come to the understanding that:
1.) There is only one judge and it ain't me! It requires a lot of emotional energy to find all the things other people aren't doing right and breeds inside of me a certain amount of negativity. I don't have to have this burden because God is truly the only one who has to judge!
2.) People need love and acceptance just as they are. If I truly desire to be Christ like as I confess I do, I need to start acting more and more like him. I think the greatest lesson from Christ was His ability to love people just as they were. He didn't go to the prostitute with condemnation in order to get her to follow Him. He went to her with love and acceptance. He hung out with the people that I would most likely avoid making eye contact with if on a public street. If I am to become truly His follower, I need to make my actions reflect His in the way that I treat each and every person I come in contact with.
3.) Judging people does not get them to change. This is the biggest lesson I've learned the past few months. I can pass judgement until I am blue in the face but that is not going to truly change people's hearts or actions. The only one that can do that is God and God alone so the only thing I can do is pray for the change, while releasing the person and the course of action required to change them to God. I can be there to help the person along the way if they so desire my help, but that is it. We cannot make people change!
I guess the reason I share all this is because one of the things the pastor talked about today is how if we truly want to bring authenticity to an unbelieving world, we have to allow for transparency in our own lives. A lot of times when I share my struggles, people are often surprised and say things like, "wow, I thought you had it all together!" I know I am often trying to put that image out there and for what reason, I don't quite know, but I have really been convicted about how we as Christians must share our struggles and our problems in order to be transparent and authentic.
If you've ever felt my judgement, please accept this as my apology and know that the heart in which it came from was truly one of love, not malintentions. If you are the praying type, pray for me that God would replace my eyes and judgement with His eyes and love.
I'd like to make this a more "interactive" blog so please respond in my comments section. You can do so anonymously if you prefer. Feel free to respond to any of the following and respnd to other posts as well:
1.) Do you believe today's church to be authentic? Why or why not? If you are a non-christian, what has been your experience with the church: positive or negative? If you are a Christian, what has been your experience within the church: a place of authenticity or of hypocrites?
2.) What affect does hypocrisy in the church have on non-believers?
3.) Do you ever feel like a hypocrite in your belief system? Why or why not?
4.) What is something that you struggle with that you feel you try to hide from others? Does that thing make you a hypocrite? What keeps you from sharing with others in the church about your struggles?