No perfect church exists.
I think most people probably get this conceptually. People aren’t perfect, and the church is made up of people. Naturally then, one could argue that there will never be a perfect church, so long as imperfect people are engaged there doing their imperfect things.
I think it is more nuanced then this.
I am accustomed to church. I have been in church my whole life. Raised by my Christian parents, our family has always been involved in some kind of ministry since I can remember. I have spent countless hours at church: worship services, bible studies, prayer meetings, choir rehearsals, church revivals, and more.
And even when I left my family and went to college, I stayed pretty connected to church. As a college student, I was really involved in campus ministry, and I discovered many other churches different than the one I had been in with my family. Eventually, I found a church to join for myself, and I am still there to this day.
In all of these church experiences, I have been with people, the majority of whom would, like me, profess that they follow Christ. And these people, like me, were and are far from perfect. More than I can ever fully explain, our lives are certainly not void of personal struggles and problems. There are all kinds of issues that we have, and some are not capable of being fixed so easily. We are people and we are not perfect; such is life.
Now, interestingly enough, a major reason why people become a part of the church in the first place is because people are not perfect. If you are a part of church, I imagine, at some point, there was an open acknowledgment that you are not perfect, that you have some issues that you cannot just resolve, that your human nature is broken and flawed. You reached a point where you admitted that you are in need of forgiveness and grace for your sin.
With this in mind, there is something that I do not understand completely, and quite frankly, I have seen it in every church setting of which I have been a part, and I have never understood it. Consequently, if someone has an explanation, go ahead. I am eager to hear it.
I do not understand how we, specifically imperfect people who follow Christ, manage the ability to mistreat others on the basis of their imperfect nature. I do not understand how we, the people who acknowledge personal struggle and need of Christ, are capable of being anything other than compassionate and gracious towards others who are personally struggling and are in need of Christ.
Let me explain this though because it is usually not blatant or deliberate. It is subtle and clever, easily hidden behind good intentions, convenient justifications, and absent awareness—oh, but it is there. No matter the excuse or reason, it manages to persist among the worship, sermon, fellowship, and beyond. It manifests itself in our quick glances and comments about someone. It manifests in our humor and sarcasm. It manifests even more in our omission, not in what we do but in what we actually choose not to do. It manifests in heavy and shameful silence.
I have been on the receiving side of this, too many times to count. And it is not fun. It can happen so fast, and I’ll be too busy trying to figure it out how my whole life just got played so quickly.
At the same time though, don’t get me wrong. I am humble in my open recognition of this because I too am not perfect. I can recall a specific situation when I unintentionally caused a whole lot of gossip, discord, and anger by speaking too quickly about someone in a passing moment. And once I saw myself as the source of the whole problem, it became a lot easier to forgive when folks do this kind of thing.
Truthfully, it is in our collective imperfection and our collective need for grace that I feel compelled to bring attention to it because, altogether, it is wrong.
Sometimes, we do wrong, and we do wrong incredibly well. We can do wrong purposely and accidentally. We can do wrong, lacking any awareness that we are indeed doing wrong. We can do wrong with full and genuine intention of doing right.
I know that our sins are forgiven, and I accept the sufficient grace that Christ gives, but we need to recognize how imperfect we are. We are reconciled and redeemed, and we still have to deal with this mess because it is so wrong, and we must do better. Y’all, we are really imperfect. And it really is not right, not right at all.
My last post was spent telling you about I follow Christ, about how perfect, great, and loving God is. All of that is still very true. I would argue that it is actually very important to consider how God is in light of how the church is. The fact that God loves us as much as He does, considering how jacked up we are, is just another testament to how great and loving God is.
Perhaps, an open acknowledgement of this will help folks see themselves when they have been the cause of the mistreatment. Or maybe, this will help other folks forgive those who have mistreated them. Perhaps, this public recognition of an imperfect church is cathartic and helpful for somebody really trying to do better. Or maybe, this public recognition is counterproductive and hurtful to somebody who is really trying to do better. Whatever it does do, I hope you hear my heart. And I hope that people, especially those who are following Christ, recognize when this occurs and work genuinely to overcome it.
Taken together, I think this is where a healthy dose of humility and introspection can go a long way. Again, even in writing such a post, it compels me to consider my imperfect nature and ask forgiveness if/when I have mistreated someone. Not doing so only feels hypocritical. I would like to think that this is not my weak point, but I know it is exactly that kind of thinking that can get me into trouble.
I like psalms a lot so I’ll leave you with this one, it seems relevant. Psalm 139: 23-24: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Feel free to respond. Pardon me while I make sure I’m on the right track.
Love Love Love,