By Pastor Tim Meendering
Rockford Reformed Church
One of the most common reasons that people turn or stay away from a church is related to their bad experiences with church people. Those experiences often include judgmentalism, hypocrisy and moral failures. And yep, you are right about us. Church people are often a mess. We do struggle with self-righteousness and very often don’t practice what we preach. I have observed and participated in it all as well.
But when we really enter in to a church community, in the context of the worship and relationships, you will also find the beauty of joy and love. And that beauty will not be related to finding people who have it all together. There will be people who humbly acknowledge their daily need for Jesus—as he welcomes and forgives the worst of sinners. And yes, you will see that our conflicts and failures persist. But we are also learning and pressing forward together with patience, forgiveness, and grace.
Your observations about the mess of judgmentalism and hypocrisy of church people were one of Jesus’ greatest concerns as he engaged with the Pharisees. It is the crazy, pride-driven default of our hearts to look good, be righteous and to somehow find love and acceptance. And then we blindly look for these things in all of the wrong places and believe that God will accept us because of our own good efforts. But when we really hear and soak in the gospel, we are humbled by the truth that our sin and guilt is so bad that Jesus had to die for us AND we are so loved that Jesus was glad to die for us.
It’s grace! It’s a free gift! There’s nothing I can do except humbly bend down to receive it. But be patient with us while we work to drive this truth down into our hearts and minds because God’s love and mercy is so scandalous that we struggle to truly believe it and be changed by it. And so we are gathering every week to be refreshed in the wonder of it all. And the more we soak it in, the more we recognize that such love and grace deserves our love and our lives.
It’s easy to become a self-righteous Pharisee toward self-righteous Pharisees. But then we are still on the outside and separated from the righteousness, acceptance and joy that Jesus alone provides. I am sorry if you have been burned or discouraged by the church. I have been as well. Jesus hated the mess so much that he allowed himself to be “judged” and condemned to death by the hypocrites so that we could be set free for a life of humility and love.