Thursday, June 27, 2013

Is The Church A Mirror Image Of Him?

I remember when my two boys were born.  I would hold them in my arms and try to find a mini me in there somewhere.  As they've grown, it has become very easy to see myself in them.  Some of those things make me want to stick my chest out in pride.  Other things make me want to blame someone else in their family ancestry. The simple fact is the fruit has not fallen far from the tree.    

On the day of Pentecost, some 2000 years ago, Jesus gave birth to the church. As I read the stories of the early church, it is not difficult to see a resemblance of Jesus in what they said and did.  They looked like Him. They reflected His character and nature to a world that needed to see it.  They carried the light into a darkened world.  They shared the truth with a world shrouded in deception. They shared the love of the heavenly Father.  They did exactly what the church is suppose to do.  They were His hands and feet.  They served as a visual image to the world of who God is and what He's like.   

The church is the "body of Christ" and as such is to reflect Him to the world.  In its search and pursuit of God, the world should be able to find Him easily within the context of the church.  But is that the case today?  Is the church today a mirror image of Him? Well, because the church is made up of people the truth is sometimes we get this right and sometimes we are an extremely distorted image of who He truly is.  Sometimes we look like Christ and sometimes we look more like the Pharisees and Saducees of Jesus' day.

There are several reasons why the church gets this wrong so often.  At the top of that list is the simple fact that many within the body of Christ have a distorted view of who God is.  When that is the case, its impossible to offer the world a healthy image of Him.  For instance if I see God as someone who is tolerant of sin, then I don't really know Him.  Tolerant?  Are you kidding me?  Check out what your sin did to Jesus and then ask yourself, "is God tolerant when it comes to sin?"  Yet, if that's how you view God, then you'll treat sin as something that is not that big of a deal.   In doing so, you've just showed the world an image that looks nothing like Him.  God declares that He hates sin.  He hates it!  That's some pretty strong language.  Perhaps we should start hating sin the way He does.  I'm thinking the first sin we should start hating though is the sin in our life.  If we'll set out to do that, then we won't have the time to worry about the sin of others.  On the other hand, if you believe that God is just waiting for us the mess up so He can unleash His fury on us, you don't really know Him either.  His fury, that we deserved, was released on His Son.  However, if you hold this view of God, then you'll look more like the disciples who asked permission to call down fire from heaven to consume the Samaritans.  Jesus' response to them was, "You have no idea what spirit you're of!" I can just picture Jesus looking at these men after they uttered those words with a look of disbelief.  "Are you kidding me?"  "Consume them with fire?" "I'm walking out life with you guys, and you have no clue who I am" "No, I'm not going to consume them with fire, but I just might consume you!"  Ok, so perhaps I'm taking a bit too much liberty with that passage, but I hope you see the point.  Jesus was saying to these disciples that they were not acting like Him at all.

Another huge reason we present the world with a perverted image of God is we as believers are lousy at loving one another within the church.  Let's face it the church is a great place to get wounded.  Of course it is.  Have you ever thought that just maybe that's God's grand design. It's only in the context of community and family that we truly learn to love.  It's much easier to love those who are distant.  It's a completely different ballgame to love someone in a more intimate setting.  Those that are close enough you can smell their bad breath and body odor.  Those that are close enough that you see all their faults.  Those that are close enough to get on your last nerve.  It's here in this setting where offenses take place and we are given the difficult challenge of dealing with those offenses.  Unfortunately, many within the body of Christ opt not to deal with them.  They either sweep them under the rug and pretend they don't exist or they cut and run.  That only leads to unforgiveness, bitterness, anger, and hurt. Yeah, that's a great reflection of Him.  Hurt people hurt people and because we have an epidemic of hurt people in the body of Christ, we have become great at perpetrating that hurt.

Loving people though demands we address wounds and offenses.  Truly loving others can be difficult.  What am I saying? "IT IS" difficult at times.  That's why we often fail miserably at it.  I'm thinking divorcing churches has to be about the same divorce rate we see in marriages today.  We would rather just leave than deal with it according to Scripture.  God forbid we do that.  In many churches there are leaders who struggle with this so they facilitate this behavior among those they lead.  Let's face it, the reason why we find it difficult to share the love of Jesus with the world is we refuse to truly love one another within the body of Christ. Notice I used the word "refuse."  We have a choice here.

There's a lot going on in the world right now.  Much of what's going on, leaves me scratching my head.  And no, I don't need Head and Shoulders.  I'm just thinking that perhaps our best approach as the church is to determine to love Him first.  In loving Him, I'm talking about getting to know Him.  Become acquainted with His nature and His character. In doing show, we'll be better equipped to truly love those within our church community.  We will also be much better at showing the world an image of Him that is much more accurate.

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