I’ve often thought that we have the wrong idea of church: not just we who are Christians, but also the world at large. All too often it is thought that churches are where people go who have it all together, who aren’t as messy as the rest of the world. Church is the place where everything is – we are told – supposed to be safe and warm and fuzzy. Because of this stereotype, I’ve spoken with many Christians who have been dismayed when a fellow church-member gossips, or folks say an unkind word after the service, or…fill in the blank. We’ve all been on the receiving end at some point, after all.
And while we must never excuse sin or become used to it in the church, we also must remember something that is so often forgotten: the church is more akin to a doctor’s waiting room than it is to a vacation destination. We must realize that the church is the place – the only place in this world! – where sinful people gather together and don’t have to hide how sinful they really are. They don’t have to strut about and put on a happy face and pretend that everything is ok. Church is where we don’t just acknowledge, but also openly expect, sinful people like you and I and everyone else to come together under the grace of Christ, our Lord and Savior.
Tim Challies – one of my favorite bloggers – had this to say recently:
“If God is in the business of saving sinners, we need to expect that church will be full of sinners—those who are still wandering and those who have only just been found. If our churches reflect God’s heart for the lost, they will be full of people with problems, full of people showing the consequences of a lifetime of wandering. And this means that church may not be a safe and easy place. It may not be a place full of people who have it all together. It may be messy. It should be messy. Thank God if it is messy.”
The rest of the article is a good reminder that Christ came not for the healthy, but the sick; that churches are not places of perfection, but refuges, hospitals, outposts, and embassies for those who desperately need Christ.