What is the death of the church and the Christian life?
I heard a pastor ask that this week, and his answer caused me to do an out-loud “hmm” – something I’m not prone to do in congregational settings, unless it’s really good.
He didn’t say the death of the Christian life is not enough prayer or study. He didn’t say the death of the church was poor leadership or low attendance. No, the thing that will smother and sizzle out both the church and your Christian walk is this:
When we, he explained, become convinced that our sin is less than our neighbor’s, that they have life together and we don’t, then we start to pretend. We pretend by hiding our sin from each other. We pretend by hiding our duplicity—the word he used to describe the way we can worship Jesus wholeheartedly one minute and the very next we turn away from him
My heart is in a chronic state of duplicity. Everybody’s is. Even Paul’s. He wrote about it openly.
We’re not as open about our own duplicity today, are we? We’ve become very, very good pretenders, haven’t we?
I wonder when this happened? At what point did Christianity become about being a good person, or pretending to be a good person, and doing all of the good things? At what point did our churches become places for sick people to pretend that they aren’t sick?
Can you imagine if hospitals 2,000 years from now looked like what many churches do today?
People enter the hospital doors, bleeding, sick, miserable, and afraid. Someone greets them cheerfully at the door, ushers them to a seat in the waiting room and there they sit. They don’t tell anyone what’s wrong with them. And nobody asks them what’s wrong.
Instead, they remain seated by fellow sick people in the waiting room, all pretending they’re fine. No nurse asking them to describe their symptoms, no one rushing to get a bandage for the wounds. Everyone oblivious to everyone else’s pain and illness.
Until they’re dismissed to leave, and everyone returns home with the same ailment they arrived with.
It doesn’t even make sense, right? What’s the point of having hospitals if no one is going to tell the doctor what’s wrong with them? How do people get healed when they pretend they aren’t sick?
During the sermon yesterday I realized how strategic it was for Satan to, over the years, make the place that was safe for sick people, the place that wasn’t safe for sick people. To turn this entire gospel thing upside down and make the building where all are the welcome the building where people know they must to act a certain way in order to be welcomed.
I confess I am good at pretending. I am the ridiculous patient at the hospital who smiles and grits her teeth through her pain and looks at the gash on her arm, shrugs her shoulders and says it’s no big deal. And I’m the patient who is convinced she is more sick than the patients around her.
It’s easy to forget who Jesus came here for. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).
I am not healthy. I am not ok. None of us are. That’s why we have a healer named Jesus, and despite what we’ve told ourselves, he isn’t afraid of our sickness. He isn’t grossed out by our wounds. He isn’t disappointed by our pain. He doesn’t want us, or need us, to pretend.
Ours is a God who loves sick people. So let’s not enter our church doors this week pretending to be well. Let’s treat our church for what it is, a place for the unwell to find real healing.