Jesus had some strong words for the religious leaders of his day. They abused their authority, using their positions to better themselves at the expense of God’s people, interpreting the scriptures for their own purposes, failing to give their people hope, and standing between the people and God. Sound familiar? Do we have Pharisees and Sadducees among us today, going by different names? Have we learned nothing in the last 2,000 years? Have you suffered at the hands of these “leaders?” Have you held that against God or Jesus? Do you have a problem with “organized religion” as a result? Do you hold a grudge against “the Church?”
You are not alone. In the U.S., people have left the traditional denominations in droves. The pandemic didn’t help. But the non-denominational churches, mega and otherwise, are not without their faults, messes, and Pharisees. It seems that there is at least one story per week of their failings. They always make the news. People love to see hypocrites exposed, to see leaders tumble. Again, this is nothing new. The Bible is filled with such stories. And these stories have filled the history books since.
But we can’t blame God. And Jesus tried to tell us, to give us some guidance, to shine some light on the misdirection, to show us the way.
The Church is simply a gathering, a group, an amalgamation of believers. Oh sure, we all believe a little different theology perhaps. We worship in different ways. We are organized or disorganized differently. But we should all be believers – believers in God, in God’s grace, in the salvation provided by Jesus Christ, the forgiveness of our sins that he provides, and the relationship that we have with God as a result. But we are a group of imperfect, sinning, mortal, human beings. And we occasionally (or maybe frequently) get it wrong. The leaders get it wrong. The members get it wrong. WE get it wrong.
It is easy to sit on the outside and throw stones. But, if we are believers, if we are or aspire to be Christ-followers, then we are part of the Church. We ARE the Church. How are we doing? Are we loving our neighbor as ourselves? Are we loving God with all of our heart, mind, and soul? Are we using and sharing our blessings, gifts, talents, and strengths to do these things?
What can you do? What more can you do? What else can you do?
Be the light. Share the light.
Luke 12:48 (to whom much is given, much will be required)