First Church of the Not So Bad
We are adepts not at fighting our sins but hiding them. We gather each Lord’s Day dressed in our smiles, share our praise reports and our health concerns, pat ourselves on our backs, and return home to our gross and heinous sins. We miss this in part because we are preternaturally positive about ourselves. We are willing to confess that there are some weak churches out there, somewhere down the road. There are destructive schools out there, but ours is one of the good ones. There are broken families out there, but ours is, as far as anyone can tell, a model of grace and peace. There are deluded sinners out there, but I thank you Lord I am not like them.
We are more than willing, individually and corporately to cop to the respectable sins. Maybe college football or NASCAR is something of an idol to us, but it’s good clean fun. Maybe I lose my temper from time to time, but kids drive everyone crazy, right? I don’t read my Bible like I ought. Sure we don’t tithe, but we’re under grace, not under law. Besides, didn’t Jesus die for sinners like us?
No, actually, He didn’t. Jesus, according to Jesus, came for the sick, not those who have no need of a physician (Mark 2:17). We might have a little tickle in our throat. We might have just a pinch of a fever. But sick? No, that’s not us. That’s those other people. We think we need Jesus because His Father demands perfection, and while we admit we’re not that, we think we’re pretty close. We have a small salvation rescuing is from a small problem by a small savior.
We won’t face what we are. Imagine if you will you’re a member of a medium sized evangelical church, with 100 adult males and 100 adult females. There are six ruling elders and two teaching elders. Chances are good that at least ten of women, and ten of the men have procured or encouraged abortions, several of them while they were professing evangelicals. Chances are good that at least a few are drunkards. Chances are good that at least a few adults are actively engaged in an extra-marital affair, and that at least a dozen are in adulterous marriages (Matthew 5:22). It is likely that at least one member hits his wife and/or his children.
These numbers are still small enough though that we can push them to the side, treat them as aberrations, rather than proof of our weakness. But consider this. According to a survey taken five years ago by Christianet.com, it is likely that one pastor, three ruling elders, twenty of the women and fifty of the men regularly consume pornography. This is not the people at the church down the street that we never much cared for. This is us. We are sexually immoral.
My point here isn’t merely to rub our noses in our sins. It certainly isn’t to deny the work of the Spirit in our lives. We are, if we are in Christ, forgiven for all our sins, and are most assuredly becoming more like Him. My point here isn’t even that we are worldly. Rather I want us, and me, to come to a deeper understanding of what a mess we are, and I am. I want us to come to a deeper understanding of just how far we have to go. I want us not once, but all our lives to beat our breasts and cry out, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.” I want us to be Reformed enough to embrace the first thesis of the 95 that sparked the Reformation- When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance. I want us to come to understand that the journey from dead in our trespasses and sins to being like Him for we shall see Him as He is is one we have all just begun. Whatever progress we are making is dwarfed by the great distance before us. Though the Great Physician died for us, though the Spirit indwells us, though the Father loves us perfectly, in ourselves we still more resemble the zombies we once were than the Savior we are called to be like.
God gives grace to the humble.