By Guy Stilwell
“Welcome to church” How many of us have heard those words? For lots of us the word “church” brings negative feelings to mind and heart whereas for others, church is a place of safety and love.
It’s interesting how the same word means so many different things to each of us individually. Some may look at that and just see diversity but I look at it and see a real problem.
Much of the American public has a more negative view of Christianity. According to barna.org, one in four
Americans cannot think of even one positive contribution that the church has made in recent years and one in five were able to come up with a negative contribution of Christianity, the top contribution being violence or hatred in the name of Jesus Christ.
This to me sounds like a serious problem within Christianity. That survey was taken in 2010 so imagine what people think about the church now.
What exactly is the church? The Bible defines the church in Romans 12:5 as the body of Christ, the living representation of Christ and his values.
So considering that definition, Christians should be working their best to represent Christ well if they claim to be his people or church.
Unfortunately, the problem is not every church accurately represents Christ. With so many viewing the church as more of a people of hate rather than love, we Christians have to ask ourselves if maybe we create the problem.
Now I’m not saying Christianity needs to be eradicated and everyone that’s a part of the church is a hateful homophobic hypocrite that uses their religion to justify hate. There really is a large population of Christians that instead of judging everybody, loves each person they come across.
I know this because I have spent years with Christians like that and I personally strive to be that way also. What I’m saying though is that the church needs to take a long look in the mirror and that Bible they keep preaching out of to make sure they aren’t a part of the problem.
Scripture from the Bible is very clear about what the church is supposed to look like and frankly, the American church is falling a little short.
First of all in Hebrews 10:24-25 it says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
That sounds to me like the church is supposed to love people and build them up. Though far too often we see on the news how yet another Christian organization is protesting with their hate filled “gays are going to Hell” posters or heard about those everybody-is-going-to-Hell-except-my-church type preachers.
Not to pick on the homosexual community but we’ve all seen those pictures. That simply isn’t the love that I read about in the Bible. As a Christian myself, hearing about that type of hateful behavior really disgusts me.
So what does the Bible say about who can be in the church? In Titus 2:11 it says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people”. Notice the scripture here says “for all people.”
That means no person is excluded from the salvation of God based on the Christians’ holy text.
So any justification that some of the church may have for refusing to spread the gospel to or allow any one group of people into their church has been thrown out of the window.
The Bible clearly says that everyone is welcome into the church through God’s plan of salvation.
Christ was a man of immense love. All throughout the New Testament you can read about the great things Christ did simply because he loved people.
An example of this can be found in John 13:34-35 he said “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
This scripture clearly states not only how Christ loved people but also that his people should love people.
Yet one in four Americans fail to see Christ’s love making a difference and worse yet one in five see Christians as a hate group according to barna.org. That’s not quite meeting the standard that Christ set for his church.
This is a serious problem. The solution to me seems really simple, love people like Christ did. Christ never said “love everyone that you feel like loving and only the good self-righteous people”.
Instead, Christ commanded his people to love everyone unconditionally. So the only way that the church is going to be seen as a benefit to society rather than a hate group is if all of them actually live out the words in the Bible they’re beating.
I think we’d live in a very different world if that happened in each of our local churches. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8.