this is the new mission statement our church has recently adopted, and over the past few weeks our pastor has been going through a sermon series explaining the heart behind this direction for our church body. last week, he talked about the gospel, and how many people in our society no longer view the gospel as good news due to the way christians have presented it to them. this struck a chord with me, because this is one of the main reasons i have struggled with my faith, especially over the last few years.
let me give you a little back story: i grew up in a christian home, accepted Christ when i was six years old, and was extremely involved in my church community throughout middle and high school. for me, church was always a place where i felt accepted, welcomed, and supported, but after i graduated high school, i started to see my friends walk away from the church due to pain other christians had caused them. at the same time, i started to wrestle with the idea of believing in a perfectly loving God who wants the best for me, but at the same time will damn me to hell if i don’t follow this set of expectations that i can never achieve. how could i encourage these friends to come back to a God i didn’t fully believe was good?
you see, i think it’s that set of standards that so many christians get tripped up by. when i see the extremist protests of groups like the westboro baptist church, or street preachers handing out fliers quoting scripture about the fires of hell that await sinners, all i can think is “that’s not the Jesus i know.”
the Jesus i know was a friend of sinners, He spent time with those who society viewed as less than and unredeemable (Luke 5:32). He didn’t condone their sin- in fact, many of His teachings are about how to live in a way that’s different from the ways of the world (my favorite is Matthew 5-7). He preached a clear message of what’s right and wrong, and wanted those who were sinning to stop and follow him. and when they repented, He welcomed them with open arms. He loved them for who they were as children of God, not for the things they did. His greatest command is to love others- LOVE (John 13:34). not humiliate, judge, frighten, or manipulate others, but love them. if we don’t love people, we cannot expect them to understand how God loves them.
so often, i feel like many of the church’s teachings get skewed in a way that grace is “one and done.” if you commit a sin or are doubting something about the faith, the judgement comes quickly and soundly. the first instinct of so many is to condemn, and focus on the sin that was committed instead of supporting the redemption that can come through Jesus for believers and non-believers alike. because of this, many people (especially people my age) will never set foot in a church.
so what? what can we do? what now?
we believe God wants the best for us through His commandments, but first and foremost - we love.
we set an example to live in the way God calls us to, we are humble when we make mistakes, and through this - we love.
we wrestle with doubts about our faith, and don’t pretend to have all the answers. and in our honesty - we love.
we meet people where they’re at, but don’t let their sin influence us in a way that prevents us from following what Jesus commands. and through not being judgemental - we love.
if someone will not set foot in a church, how will they experience the love and grace of God? when we step outside of the comfort of our churches - and we love.
all views in this post are my own, and do not directly reflect the ideas of abundant life church or any of its staff or members.