February 21st 2014 No comments yet
My first car was a bright purple 1997 Jeep Cherokee that was almost 10 years old when I got it. She had her fair share of dings and a transmission that made it kick like a mule the first time you hit the accelerator pedal in the morning. But the engine purred happily every time you turned the key. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t fast, and it certainly wasn’t helping my image with the ladies, but it was there when I needed it.
My beloved Jeep wasn’t about appearances. It was about being dependable enough to meet my needs. It had imperfections and, occasionally, some difficulties, but I didn’t feel the need to dress it up with a different paint job, new rims, or a bumper that didn’t have rust. I loved that car, and in my eyes its imperfections didn’t make it inferior.
I think we could stand to be a little more like that Jeep, because we, as Christians, have created an environment in our churches that has become so image conscious that our own dings and imperfections have become unacceptable. This is not a stab at any church and its individual ministry or policies. Rather, it’s a look at us as people and our crippling fear of appearing imperfect.
You know the drill. Get up on Sunday morning, throw on some trendy church clothes, get to service, shake a few hands with the obligatory “How are you this morning? Fine, thanks. Good to see you,” listen to the sermon, and then book it to beat the Methodists to Golden Corral. Quick, painless, and safe. No vulnerability or authenticity required.
Many of us have forgotten that churches aren’t built for people who have it all together. If they were, there wouldn’t be anyone qualified enough to sit in the parking lot, much less go through the door. Not even the pastor up on stage teaching and pulling verses out of Zephaniah from memory (while you wonder if that’s a book of the Bible or the name of the new strain of bird flu you keep hearing about on the news) has everything in his life in a neat little row.
Churches aren’t for great people who wear the right things and are happy all the time. Churches are for broken, lost people who desperately need to hear what is coming from the pulpit. And as we can see from Romans 3:27-28, what’s coming from the pulpit can be ruled out as the source of the problem.
Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.
The pressure we feel to act and look like “perfect Christians” isn’t coming from the disapproval of God. It’s an issue of pride, vanity, or fear, none of which are qualities God looks for in His people. He isn’t looking for perfect people to do His work; He’s looking for those who recognize their brokenness and rely on Him to complete them. People wanting to look “together” waste too much energy keeping up appearances and attempting to be self-reliant to be of much use.
Your imperfections, sins, and mistakes don’t make you a subpar Christian; they make you a normal one. Everyone in your church is human, and despite our penchant to put on a happy face on Sunday mornings, every single one of us is facing various sins and trials. Find people who understand, reach out and be vulnerable, because we were never intended to face life alone.
To God, faith is more important than your paint job, and there are people in your church who understand exactly what life is throwing at you. If someone could love that purple deathtrap of a car I used to have, you certainly don’t need to try to appear perfect in front of your church or God.
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