Let’s take a trip over to The Christian Church in Anywhere, USA. Now this church has a beautiful building, stunning stained glass windows, and moving portrait of Jesus returning in the clouds over the baptismal and people filling the pews each week.
Meet Tom, New Member: Tom is an ordinary looking man. He wears an ordinary looking, if not slightly out of style, suit to church. But his eyes – they tell the story of a man who is thankful he has a Savior. And when he opens his mouth you know he has had an awesome conversion. He wants to tell everyone he meets about how Jesus changed his life. He tells you a story of his life before Christ. A story filled with drugs, sex, addictions, and misery. He tells you how his life had hit rock bottom and he had no where else to turn. Then, someone handed him a little tract and the words written inside were a turning point. He found a local church and asked for a Bible and he began to read. He asked Jesus to come into his life. Today, he still fights the temptation to pick up a bottle of alcohol when life gets stressful. But at those times he seeks out his Lord and God helps him through those moments. “Life isn’t perfect, but whose complaining,” he says. “I have my Lord and Savior helping me to get through each day. I have never been so happy!”
Meet Sally, Member, Baptized at Age 10: Sally is known for her sweet smile and her kind words. She always has something nice to say to everyone. Whenever another member at church needs a helper, she can always be counted on to fill the bill. She has been married for 10 years to a man who doesn’t go to church anymore. Each week she brings her four lively children to church and to all the church related activities. She knows how important a good religious education is. She is liked by everyone and many envy her home, her cars, and her good-looking children. And her husband would be perfect if only he came to church! He is a good provider, friendly, and good looking. Or so everyone thinks. Night after night as her husband comes home late, she wonders where he has been, or more importantly, who he has been with. Their relationship has grown cold and she feels bitter resentment toward him. She has stopped having her daily devotions, because she secretly feels that God has let her down. Instead, late at night, after the children are tucked into bed, she logs on to her favorite internet chat room. No one there knows who she is and she finds comfort in the words of a stranger.
Meet Peter, former Pastor: Peter was a member his entire life. For 20 years he served the people in the pulpit, in their homes, and counseled them in his office. He loved his ministry and it showed. He worked hard. He baptized many. He built new churches in surrounding areas. Everyone loved him. Until, one day he could no longer mentally bear the constant verbal abuse at home. His wife’s complaints that he was not a good provider and her refusal to live on a pastor’s budget had gotten them so far indebt there was no light at the end of the tunnel. And her accusing words, “And you call yourself a pastor! You aren’t fit to be a pastor!” began to ring true in his ears. And his life began to lose its meaning. He hated going home. So he quietly filed for a divorce, resigned as pastor and left the church. In one fell swoop, he had lost his family, his job, and his church. There was a silent gasp from the members of the church when this happened. “But she is so sweet! How could he do that to her?” they asked themselves. But no one knew the damage she had caused or the devastation he felt. No one asked. No one called. When they saw him coming they avoided him if at all possible. And if it couldn’t be avoided, they acknowledged him, however uncomfortable it was. And when they left the pleasantries behind and walked away, they were silently shaking their heads. “I would never do anything like that!” they thought. “How could he?”
Finally, Meet Every Other Member, Various Backgrounds: These are the people who work in the church daily. They encourage new members to join. They help maintain the church building or the lawn. They sing praises in the choir. They laugh together and sometimes cry together. They come from many different backgrounds and are many different ages. They are good people. They love the Lord. But one thing they all have in common? They all need a Savior. They hear stories of people who have had lives transformed and shout praises of God’s greatness. They hear stories of Christians who have fallen and shake their heads and say, “Well, bless her soul.” Or “I just don’t understand. He seemed like such a good man.” After all, divorce, adultery, or gambling are much worse in their eyes than say – anger, lying, watching rated R movies (behind closed doors of course), or disrespecting their parents.
I am sure you that you have realized that I am trying to make a point. In God’s eyes, “All have fallen short of the glory of God.” Whether you are a liar, an adulterer, a divorcee, or a new convert, nothing sets you apart from the rest of the world, except the blood of Jesus covering your sins. When we find forgiveness for our past life, are we automatically perfect? No, of course not! That won’t happen until we get to Heaven.
So, why do we praise sinners who have been transformed, but expect Christians to never stumble? Are you supporting those in your church who are hurting? Do you even recognize the pain in their eyes? Do you judge other Christians because you are better than they? Do the hurting in your church know you are there not to condemn but to love? Or do they hide their pain for fear of judgment?
About the Author:
Melissa Ringstaff is the Director of A Virtuous Woman, a ministry for women based on the Scriptures of Proverbs 31 - www.avirtuouswoman.org. She lives with her husband and children in the beautiful Appalachian mountains of Kentucky. She enjoys being a wife, mother, and homemaker. Melissa can be contacted through A Virtuous Woman or by email at email@example.com