A while back I was listening to a sermon on the radio and the preacher said that the church is filled with broken people. In fact, he said the church is for broken people. The church is for those of us who realize that we are sinful at heart and broken and we can't fix ourselves and we need someone to do it for us. Enter Jesus. I suspect if you love Jesus a good deal of that love comes from the fact that you know how broken you are and that you don't have hope without him. I feel a lot like Paul does in Romans 7:18-19: "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing." And I am just as relieved as Paul when he cries out: "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:24-25).
So if the church is for broken people and thus filled with broken people, what should we expect to find when we step inside one? Selfishness, pride, anger, legalism, greed, gossip, and so on. Let's face it. We don't become perfect once we're saved. When we're saved, what we get is grace. All that sinful stuff that defines us is washed clean because our God loves us enough to die and be raised for us. That's what happens. But we still struggle with that sinful human nature that doesn't want to rest under God's grace. It rears its ugly head and gratefully we have the Holy Spirit as our aid, giving us a sword to fight the sinful nature. But you know what? Sometimes we will fail. "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8).
Of course, we don't want to sin. Those who love Christ want to live as he did, or at least they should. John notes that he writes so followers of Christ won't sin--"My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if
anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the
Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:1-2). John notes that those who love Jesus will do what he commands. We should want to obey and live godly lives. But thank goodness John says that if we do sin, we still have an advocate who died for our sin.
I don't know about you, but I still struggle against my sin. I have to turn to Jesus daily. I have to ask people for forgiveness often. And I have to remind myself that it is only by the grace of God that I can even take a step without continual self-condemnation. And this is the situation of most Christians I know.
So this is what I want people to remember: that Christians are not perfect; their Christ is. Christians want to be like him and the Holy Spirit is guiding them, but until glorification, we won't be entirely there. And that's why you aren't going to find perfection in the church. It seems the thing of the day for Christians to write blogs condemning the church and Christians for being horrible people that turn everyone away from the church. I cringe at those blogs. Because I know you will walk into a church and be met with mean people. If you think walking into a church takes you out of the world, think again. You will meet broken people in the church who wrongly treat you like dirt. You can't expect perfection.
But you will also find people who don't want to be bound by their sin and who will sympathize with you. You will find those who in their own brokenness don't crush others in their brokenness. You will find those who extend to you the same grace they have been given. In the church, you will find both the mean-spirited and the kind. The argument goes that the world sees Christians in a bad light. Of course they do. The pastor who gets down on his hands and knees to serve the wounded in his community rarely gets the spotlight. The pastor who has an adulterous affair is prime news fodder. The church that supports and runs a pregnancy center isn't going to be hailed. The church that throws mud at girls going to abortion clinics will be on the six o'clock news. The world gets a heavy dose of the mean and not the kind.
So, yes, of course, we should seek to be kind, welcoming people in the church. I wish every Christian I knew was kind and gracious 100% of the time. But I also know that we live with sin and we are broken and sometimes, we aren't going to shine. And rather than write blogs condemning our brothers and sisters for sinning, we should be encouraging each other to yield to the Spirit, take up our sword and fight the darts of our enemy and our sinful nature. And reminding ourselves that our perfect Christ has given us the power and the love to fight the good fight.