Have you ever noticed that every church website asks, “New Here?” and then states something like this: “Come as you are! Go ahead, wear your blue jeans and your flip flops; you are welcome here!” Do you think we should tell the Christian Church that we are pretty sure everyone knows they can now wear blue jeans to church in the 21st century?
I know the Church’s intentions are good and they want everyone to feel welcome and comfortable, but we no longer care whether or not we can wear blue jeans to church. To be honest, we are going to wear blue jeans to church whether we have permission or not. Many of us have much more pressing questions on our mind.
We want to know if we can walk into the Church and not feel judged within 60 seconds . We need to know if it is OK to be ourselves? If this is a safe place to struggle with our issues? If our gifts will be wanted and used? If we will be considered “good enough” as we are? If our “sins” will be looked down upon because they are different than normal “churchy” sins that are easier to hide? Most of all, we want to know if we will be unconditionally loved and accepted or if we will have to suppress our personalities and hide our flaws to appease judgmental people.
I am not sure what happens to so many Christians. It is as if so many of us forget where we came from and all the struggles with sin we have had (and continue to have). We become pros at hiding our sin because we don’t want to be found out. We feel like we will lose influence or be deemed as hypocrites if we are authentic about our struggles. In our attempt to avoid becoming “a stumbling block to our weaker brother or sister” we become fake, judgemental, and patronizing.
Ironically, this is when we become an actual “stumbling block” to others.
So many people are walking away from the Christian Church because they are tired of all the judgement and feeling as if they can’t simply be themselves. There is nothing more refreshing than church leaders sharing their personal weaknesses with their congregation. Our generation is not looking for morally exceptional leaders; but rather, we are looking for the raw truth found in a messy, but loving community.
Are we not all searching for a home? A family? Somewhere we can catch our breath again, take a real rest, and recharge? The family of God is supposed to be a safe place; a place where it is OK not to have it altogether. Our churches should be full of undeserved grace because we have all been given undeserved grace by our Savior. Sometimes we want so much to be like Jesus that we forget that we are NOT Jesus.
Not one of us is perfect and we all have much growing to do. Being “Christian” does not make us better than anyone else. It makes us more forgiven and loved. Our Jesus has shown us great mercy so that we can turn around and show great mercy to others. It is not our job to try and change people’s behaviors and choices; this is the Holy Spirit’s job. All we are are called to do is show compassion and genuine love towards others.
Yes, there is a time to speak the hard truth to individuals that God places in our path, but this should only be done after we have taken the time to build a genuine, trust-based relationship with the person. Our unconditional love and acceptance for one another and those in the world should be the most attractive attribute we hold. Trying to change people or convincing others to do it “our way” is the easiest way to turn people off.
Who wants to hang out with those who always expect you to be on your best behavior? Not me! I avoid these types of people with everything I have within me. I want to be around people who accept me for who I am, exactly where I am at. I long to be around family and close friends because it is with them that I can be completely honest about how messy my life really is.
Everyday we go to work and we must behave professionally. We meet new people and we must show only our best side. Church should be the place that we feel comfortable leaving our best behavior behind and allowing people to see who we truly are – strengths and weaknesses alike. I don’t know about you, but this is the Christian Church I am searching for and I will not stop looking until I find it.
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. -Romans 15:7
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