“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
—Ephesians 4:1-3, NASB
If I had a dollar for all the times I’ve been told some variation of “church is full of hypocrites”, I’d have a neat little stack of money. Maybe I could buy a sweet imitation leather Bible with it.
If I had a dollar for every time I didn’t feel like going to church because I didn’t want to deal with one of my sisters in Christ, or at least hoped to avoid a particular person, I’d be able to buy a really nice calfskin-bound Bible. Maybe even two.
So why do I keep trying to convince people to become Christians?
The ultimate reason is God, His righteousness and perfection. He deserves our worship and our obedience, in a way no human ever can.
It certainly isn’t because the people who make up the church are perfect. Although, if I had a dollar for every time a member of the church has said the “just right” encouraging word, offered support in a time of trial, gone out of their way to make my life easier, or just laughed with me, I’d have a stack of bills big enough to buy…I don’t know what. A Camaro, probably.
Those who follow God are always going to struggle with sin from time to time. Wait, except me. I have that problem licked, right?
Oh, how I wish I could tell myself that. Life is so much easier when all of my problems are someone else’s fault. It makes listening to the sermon a lot less uncomfortable, too, when I can think of all the ways that Sister So-and-so needs to take it to heart, instead of examining my own life.
I’m not denying that some of my Christian sisters have attitude problems. But as a follower of Jesus, my first duty is to look to myself. “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3, NASB)
It’s so easy to perceive that a log is in someone else’s eye, and so hard to believe that I have even a speck in my own eye.
We live in a world tainted by sin. How many times have you cried out to God, wishing for the rest that will be ours in heaven?
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3,4 NASB)
When I think of heaven and the new body I’ll be given (Phil. 3:21), unmarred by the effects of sin, I don’t imagine that I’ll be using my tongue to talk down to the sisters I spend eternity with.
I don’t imagine that I’ll see them coming toward me down the street of gold and quickly find an excuse to go in another direction so I won’t have to greet them.
It isn’t a new thing that women have trouble getting along sometimes. Paul wrote in Philippians 4:2, “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.” (NASB)
Even women who had “shared [Paul’s] struggle in the cause of the gospel” were struggling to tolerate each other. It’s easy to imagine that their discord was a hindrance to the cause of the gospel.
As an ambassador for Christ (II Cor. 5:20) my behavior reflects on the church, and affects how other people feel about Christ. It influences them, positively or negatively. I truly pray it will not be negatively.
To that end, I need to live my life with a vision of heaven, my eternal destination, firmly in mind. Am I, now, the sort of person that God or anyone else would want to spend eternity with? If not, what do I need to change?
If my attitude towards my fellow Christians is wrong, how can I change it? If I reach out in friendship to a sister I feel has wronged me and I forgive her, is it possible that her attitude towards me will change as well?
It may be true that a sister needs to hear the truth spoken in love to help her correct her behavior, but first I need to remove the log from my eye to see her clearly and with love.
Some people are unwilling to change. I can only change myself, and only to the extent and in the ways God demands. But I can always look on others in the church and remember that they are fellow saints as well as fellow sinners, because we do all still sin, and have compassion in my dealings with them.