What does beauty look like in the church? I believe it looks exactly like love. Is that what the church is currently known for? I think not. Can we get there? I know we can!
I know this is bad, but a lot of times I cringe at the persona the church is putting out. The church as a whole (especially from the outside) looks so different than what Jesus looked like. The church is known for what we hate. (I know, I know Christians aren’t supposed to use that word.) The church is known on the inside for “hating the sin, loving the sinner,” but on the outside we just appear to hate. I would suggest, that if we begin a statement with the phrase “hate the sin”, we have no idea how to “love the sinner”.
I cringe at some of the predominate tactics used for evangelism. We all know the church definitions of evangelism and gospel, so I thought I’d check out Webster to see what he had to say.
1. the spreading of the Christian gospel by public preaching or personal witness.
the teaching or revelation of Christ.
“it is the Church’s mission to preach the gospel”
Christian teaching, Christian doctrine, Christ’s teaching; More
the record of Jesus’ life and teaching in the first four books of the New Testament.
What I see these people teaching and preaching is NOT the gospel according to Jesus. He walked in perfect love. He spoke in love and not condemnation! The only people he was “rude” to, were the religious leaders (you know, the guys that studied and studied the Torah, and wanted everyone to follow the “rules” and would publicly humiliate and condemn anyone that they deemed unworthy.).
I have to admit, there are certain Christians I steer clear of! If I see a bumper sticker, t-shirt or other promotional items from these groups, that promote this type of evangelism, I run the other way! (Now I know that God loves them too, and they do have good in them-otherwise they wouldn’t take evangelism so seriously, but I’ll be honest, my heart is still being worked on here.) I would be scared to see the statistics for the pain they caused unbelievers vs. the “conversions” they facilitate. I truly think it’s preposterous to suggest that Jesus went around publicly pointing out random people’s sins, thereby publicly humiliating them, when no one asked for His opinion. The examples I see in the Bible show the GOOD news being proclaimed. They show the LOVE of the Father! They show the power given by Jesus. They show the works of the Holy Spirit. They show Jesus healing and making whole! This is a different kind of evangelism than what is at work today.
Then there’s the Christian political movement. I won’t get too in depth here. I do want to start out by saying, I believe there are people specifically appointed for this job! There are people that are supposed to work in politics. The people that I am thinking of right now are truly amazing people. They are full of love and grace and smarts and poise. They truly embody sheep in a wolve’s world: wise as serpents, and innocent as doves. They are anointed to make governmental changes and bring awareness of national and international injustices. That being said, I certainly don’t believe that this is the calling on every person’s life! I don’t know that we are all supposed to stand and “rally” against things, holding signs and shouting at people. I think that without that specific calling, we are to do our part and be informed and vote in line with our beliefs, but what if there is not change right now in our government and political system because we are actually supposed to be changing the world with LOVE? What if we are actually supposed to operate like Jesus did, empowered by the Holy Spirit in a new system called unconditional, unending LOVE?
I think that many times these two scenarios go hand in hand. You may be thinking that this sounds very critical. I will just say, I have been there. I have done these things. I have “witnessed” by pointing out other’s sins. I have attended my fair share of rallies. There was a part of me that never felt peaceful about it. It didn’t settle right in my spirit. I’ll tell you one of the moments that started the transformation of my spirit was at a community festival. It was a small town festival with family fun and food. As I was walking through the crowd, tall above all of the heads, I see a sign that says, “God HATES: homosexuals, liars, cheaters, thieves, murderers….” the list went on. I felt my heart rate speed up. This made me furious. I couldn’t quite pinpoint why; I didn’t have the words for this type of thing yet. I kind of lingered in the area to see what was going on. There was a man holding the sign and then two others handing out tracts and trying to talk to people. The people were running like cockroaches when you flip on the light! I would have too! This is not the environment that Jesus induced. I finally went up to the guy holding the sign. I asked him why he was using this “tactic” when trying to witness to people and that I thought Jesus operated in love. That’s why he died on the cross because he loved us. The man explained that people have to recognize their sin and God can’t be around sin. I couldn’t remember the reference, but I quoted the man the verse that says, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through Him.” (Yes, I was so flustered that I couldn’t remember that this was John 3:17.) I obviously didn’t change this guy’s mind. I was totally unprepared to see something like that. I didn’t know that kind of thing existed up until that moment. My heart was sad, and I didn’t even have the words to process why.
I love the church. The church is Christ’s bride! We are to be radiant, not downtrodden and solemn, and barely hanging on! (Isaiah 60:1; Matt 5:14; Ephesians 5:27) I want to see the church healthy and whole and that starts with individuals. We must be healthy and whole and living from the fullness of being in Christ before we can impact the world. Anything less, leads to a counterfeit. Jesus is the most authentic being ever and if He lives in us, we should be the most authentically beautiful expression of LOVE on earth! (As He is so are we in the world 1 John 4:17) I just think we can do better! I think He has provided a beautiful path that He exemplified on earth, and somehow we as a church decided to take a different route. What if we all looked like Jesus? Really truly, looked like Him. I am not speaking condemnation here. I want to go up higher! I want everyone to go up higher! Let’s not settle for what someone said was the “good Christian thing to do” and start looking and what Christ really did and how he operated! Let’s start operating and living in LOVE! And trust me, if it’s really love, it’ll look like love, and smell like love, and feel like love, and sound like love!
One verse that kept popping up in my mind while writing this is Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” I love this! The etymology of the word lovely has to do with a “beautiful kiss”!! That is so amazing! The things we are to be thinking of and operating out of are supposed to be like a beautiful kiss!
The Father is love. Jesus is love. The Holy Spirit is love. Love is perfect beauty. Beauty takes on so many forms. What form of beauty is in you for you to express? How are you to be an expression of beauty for the world to see? After all, we are the light of the world for that very purpose, so the world will see the beauty of God!