The fellowship I pastor is far from perfect. Beginning with me, we are all works in progress in our Christian life. While eternally completely forgiven, bearing Christ’s righteousness, and sealed in the adoption of the Holy Spirit, in the daily realm of life we all have struggles and victories, strengths and weaknesses, good days and bad days. We have days we (and I) love and bless one another, and days we (and I) let each other down and even wound one another. I would venture to say that any honest pastor would say the same thing about themselves and their fellowship.
The question is, I think, are we OK with that? I don’t mean that we are happy about those things in our life and passive about trying to grow closer to His image—I mean, are we OK realizing that we aren’t there yet, and nor are those around us? I think the minute that we aren’t we start being condemning, unforgiving, judgmental, and divisive, and a poison creeps into the body that is supposed to be united in love as one. (This isn’t about not being the iron that sharpens iron in another’s life, or not humbly holding one another accountable—it is about the attitude we carry in that.)
I have told our fellowship many times that we are a workshop, and not a museum. If they want perfect people, and people that always live up to their expectations, then they are in the wrong place. We are a collection of many people, from many different backgrounds and church experiences (or no church experience at all). Each has their own expectations and hopes and needs . . . and baggage. Isn’t that logical?
I think that if Christians aren’t careful we can become the older brother in the prodigal story, or the Jews struggling to receive Gentiles. We can start to look at how long we’ve walked with Jesus, and how “mature” we’ve become, or how “proper” we act in church, or how much “we” serve, or how “clean” our mouth is, or . . . and then we can look at another, who maybe isn’t as “polished,” and find judgement (or a condescending spirit) enter our heart.
We have to be so careful to love one another, to guard our hearts, to forgive quickly, to serve gratefully, to examine our log more than we focus on their speck, and to recognize that the person we are elevating ourself above may have come to Christ from a far more broken place then we did, and have actually traveled much farther in their Christian journey toward maturity then we have!
How many times churches are divided (literally, or in spirit though they remain “together”) by bitter roots of judgment, unforgiveness, self-focus, self-seeking, etc. Even when there are legitimate offenses to us—how many times have we offended or wounded others (or God) and been so grateful for grace and mercy!
In Acts 10:15 the Lord said to Peter, in this case about Gentiles, "What God has made clean, do not call common." When we speak ill of one of God’s children, or we judge them, or we fail to forgive them, or we hold something against them, or we withhold what He would have us give them, or we seek our own over them, we are doing it unto His own, and we are saying that they, who are good enough for God and loved by God and declared acceptable and clean by God, are not good enough, or clean enough, for us to love and forgive and serve . . . and that is a scary place to find your heart!
We shouldn’t wonder if the world rejects Jesus if they see in those who claim to bear His image nothing different from the world they live in. Workshop, or museum? It is a question to ask. What are we truly OK with?