There are two groups in every church, a third entering the church looking for God, and hopefully a holy fourth. The first group is often as straight as an arrow. They are morally upright. They don’t use bad language, they don’t frequent worldly establishments. They usually live impeccably moral lives. But they exhibit little joy. They are often secretly angry and bitter. They see themselves as the faithful guardians of the flame. They have trimmed back the carnal edges of worldliness. They have conformed to whatever standards were necessary for them to qualify as members of the church and gain admission to the inner circle of the righteous. Sadly, they are lifeless. Clean outside, they are dead inside.
The second group clings to God’s love and grace. They barely keep their heads above the water. They assume the forgiveness of God. They live as close to the edge of the world as they can, and still claim to be a Christian. They love the world – the sports, the fashions, the shows, the dazzle, the toys, the money, the power, the latest and the best, the hottest and the newest. But they can barely manage a conversation about Biblical notions – nor do they typically want to do so. Before they are in the parking lot, they talking about what happened before church or what will happen afterwards. The grace that was meant to transform is instead exploited by them. They keep their immorality under the radar screen. They avoid scandal. But they are not about to live with the rules of the first group. They want to be Christians, but also be free from any significant restriction – legalism, as they would call it. Sadly, they have freed themselves from any radical call to abandon worldliness and wholly follow Christ. They violate the standards of righteousness, but in subtle unobvious ways, so as to avoid public embarrassment. They deceive even themselves. They flirt with sin. They have embraced a sloppy-agape. They resist the constraining power of God’s love to live lives that are morally pure and upright.
The third group entering the church, newcomers, seekers, are likely to find the above groups as comfortable as a briar patch or a moral bog. Both groups are bankrupt. Both are deadly. Both are spiritually ill. And yet, unsuspectingly, many are drawn into one of these groups and inoculated with religion so as to never discover the true Christ.
Hopefully, there is a fourth group in your church. That group is as morally upright as the first group. Their lives are impeccable as well. But there is a difference. They are not only holy, they are also humble. They are not exclusive, as is the first group. They are as loving and embracing of sinners as the second group. They are welcoming of new people. And yet, the grace with which they embrace a sinner does not diminish the truth they hold onto to, the very truth that transforms.
If new people come into a church and find the first group, they will conform, learn the rules, play the game, and become nice religious dead people. If they find the second group, they will either be horrified by the hypocrisy and leave, or gladly settle into a life that talks love and lives unrighteously. Only if they find the fourth group, will they experience truth and love together.
Christianity necessitates a change of mind – a new worldview. A change of heart – new passions. A change in behavior – new patterns of living. All are evidentiary. In Christianity, you switch sides. You love not the world. You defy the devil. You crucify the flesh. You sacrifice. You embrace the cross. You taste the power of the resurrection.
Find more teachings by P. Douglas Small and resources at www.alivepublications.org.