In February, I posted my thoughts about the expression: Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven. As someone who has a lifetime history with church − both its local assembly (a church) and its universal expression (the Church) as the body of believers who follows Jesus Christ − my experiences are as varied as one might imagine.
Because local churches are generally made up of sinners who’ve trusted the saving work of Christ, I’m talking about people here, people with failings and shortcomings. We Christ-followers are as flawed, damaged, ugly and deceitful as anyone in the larger world. We’re subject to the same temptations and attitudes as anyone else. Sometimes we make good choices (to be godly and follow Christ daily) but too often, our behavior fails to reflect the love of Christ. (Read Romans 7 about Paul’s description of this struggle.)
When my friend, insanitybytes, yesterday posted with the title Churchian Adventures, I found her observations both funny and true to my experience. (I identify with many of her keen insights.) Exactly as she describes, the churchian adventure can be unpleasant and frustrating!
I’ve endured a love-hate relationship with church since I was a teenager. At that time, my issue was legalism; I rejected legalism but there were people in my local church who condemned me for (1) associating with sinners, or (2) failing to wear a head-covering. They were so busy condemning me and my sins (to my face), they ignored their own sins … gossip, pride, etc. Later on, there was criticism because I laughed too much, didn’t take the Christian life seriously, wore short skirts (it was the 60s after all) and dated guys who didn’t attend church!
Despite what seemed like unrelenting criticism, I never abandoned my Lord. Through it all, I understood what really mattered, knowing my personal walk with Jesus Christ wasn’t measured by a laundry lists of dos and don’ts but instead, by the once-for-all work of Christ on the cross.
During my early teens, I also instructed the Lord I would never marry a pastor or a missionary. I didn’t want my children raised in a situation where their behavior would be judged (and found wanting) by any congregation’s resident legalists.
(Of course, God always likes to surprise us. When I met my future husband, he was already preparing to attend seminary. God and I had a pretty serious talk about that and I decided to trust his direction. After seminary graduation, my Beloved engaged in ministry but not day-to-day pastoral or missionary work.)
My love-hate relationship with church didn’t evaporate after I married my Beloved. Sadly, we learned that being involved in peripheral Christian ministry doesn’t immunize one’s children from the scrutiny of “well-meaning” religious busybodies. As things turned out, each of my grown children learned through experiences in their early years that an arm’s-length caution is warranted in churchian adventures. (Maybe you’ve heard the expression that Christians sometimes shoot their wounded.) Their healthy skepticism today hasn’t dissuaded them from Christ, but made them naturally wary of con artists.
It’s unfortunate that religious observation may degrade to empty symbolism devoid of substance. The free-verse poem below relates my observations from a long time ago when I decided to call a “Time-Out” from my churchian adventures. The poem is an expression of my regret about what I saw happening around me … and I wanted no part of it (hence my time-out). Jesus described this form without faith as “whitewashed tombs [containing] dead men’s bones and uncleanness.” I thought the metaphor of mindless cattle was also apt.