“ So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.”
I have found myself at a place in my life where I have questioned the worldview of the church. Being that I was a part of the world and the church both for many years, I have seen a lot of what Christians believe and what we as Christians actually do in relation to what we believe. What’s alarming is that there are many people who come into the church and find the hypocrisy of the church congregation, which causes them to simply walk away. I am not insinuating that the church has permanently fallen nor am I implying that church is solely responsible for people coming and going in the church. I am, however, making a point to tell you in this short teaching that there are misconceptions of the church and it has been duly noted by the world.
There are those who haven’t been in the church long or are not even in the church find themselves lost in a sea of faces but no relationship with people in the church. The word fellowship is defined in part as a “relationship.” One of the main problems is that many people that come into the church from outside in the world find themselves ostracized or put out because they just feel that they fit in. They have nothing in common at all with the people of the church and often it is because they feel more at home at the bar with Joe than in the pew next to Jim. I am not saying that we should indoctrinate ourselves with a flavor of seeker friendliness or open a bar in the courtyard lobby of the churches in America. Nevertheless, I do think that we are often too focused on ourselves and are totally missing a great opportunity to reach out to a lost and dying world.
We have a couple in our church, which comes to mind, that many people would not normally associate with because they are still “rough around the edges.” They haven’t embraced the Church for very long and that means they haven’t given up all their lifestyles. It has been these types of situations that posed this question in my heart; “Have we totally missed the point of what the church is all about?“ Are we finding ourselves receiving the sick, the needy, the widows, the orphans, etc? Or are we coming together to talk about politics, sports, the latest model of phones, etc.?
There’s an old song called “What the world needs now is love sweet love” and that is so true in the world today. The fact of the matter is, when someone from the outside comes in, they are expecting to receive Christ. The world is expecting to feel Christ. They are expecting another experience that they have never experienced before. What are you and I doing to practice what Christ practiced? It is not enough to say that you love God. In I John 4:20, the author stated that “If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we have not seen?” We, the church, are now at a place where it is not enough to have a bumper sticker and a Jesus pin.
There’s a story about a woman who was driving and she had come to a stop at a schoolyard where she was stuck behind someone. The person did not move so the woman proceeded to honk her horn and yell out obscenities out the car window. Behind her, there was a local police officer and he found it quite odd so he decided to watch her. It wasn’t long that the police officer assumed something was wrong and arrested the woman. A few hours later, the officer came up to her and handed her belongings to her. He said “I am sorry for the mix-up but I thought your car was stolen. You see, I saw the bumper sticker and the fish on the back of your car but I didn’t think it could possibly be the owner of the car who was driving. Again, I apologize.” I know you and I get a chuckle out of this story but the fact is, it happens more often than you realize. The world is watching you and is taking note of it.
Let’s take the Woman at the well for example since we need scripture to back up what we are teaching here today. In John 4, Jesus came to a well in Samaria to take a moment and rest. Let’s stop here for a moment and think about this. There were two other routes that Jesus could have taken to avoid Samaria but he went straight into a city in the heart of the people. It was not customary for Jews to associate with the Samarians. Sounds familiar? You and I hear often that it is not customary for Christians to associate with the world. We have twisted scripture around so that we don’t have to a part of the world which is biblically false. Jesus went against the custom of His people and the norm of what others thought.
As He was resting at the well, there was a person there that two things that would have made the Jew of this time avoid the well; this was a woman and she was a Samaritan. This did not bother Jesus for one moment. In a dialogue that would change history, Jesus challenged this woman on her faith, her lifestyle, and her heart. Her faith was challenged when He asked her for a drink. She, in the natural, saw her flaws and what she should not do. Jesus, in the spirit, saw her healing and what she could do. “Please give me a drink” He said to her. She, before even truly thinking about it, said that she was unqualified. Jesus did not come back to her with the John 3:16 evangelism. He met her where she was at which was at the well. Jesus’ response to her was this, “anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” What did Jesus do? He offered her a solution, not a pad answer, to her problem or her disability and yet did it without judgment or criticism.
Jesus then addressed her lifestyle without judgment. ‘ “Go and get your husband.” Jesus told her. “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied. Jesus said, ‘You’re right! You don’t have a husband-for you have had five husbands and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth.” Here, Jesus uncovered what she was living in yet I don’t see Him saying, “you can’t come here” or “you can’t hang around me” or “you sinner are going to burn in hell….” He uncovered her sin and shortly, you will see where he covered it with the Word. I recently read out of Craig Groeschel’s “Confessions of a Pastor” of a time where he had gone to guest teach at a church. A single mom came to the church that he was guest speaking but she was turned away at the door. Why? She wasn’t wearing the “appropriate attire” for church. What would have happened if Jesus had told the Samaritan woman that because of her life style, she couldn’t come to Christ to receive the free gift he had?
‘“Sir”, the woman said, “you must be a prophet. So tell me, why is that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place to worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshipped?”’ Until I started writing this message, I never understood why this was in the scripture but I believe now more than ever that a hindrance or a barrier in her faith in God was that she was not accepted in the synagogue because she was not a certain demonination. That’s not biblical but it is an observation that I have made.
“Jesus replied, ‘Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while the Jews know all about him for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is coming- indeed it’s here now- when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.’“ Just a side noted; I love the simple faith of the Samaritans that is represented here. Jesus had said that “Samaritans know very little about the one you worship.” This leads me to believe that they didn’t know much about God but revered Him and worshipped Him. I believe that John was making a statement here that was subtle but profound. You don’t have to be Baptist, Jewish, Charismatic, Catholic, etc to love God. All He requires is that you come to Him.
We, as a church, need the answer to give and we need more than just the evangelism side of the answer. In James 1:27, James wrote “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this; To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” What James was saying is that people need you to just be there. We as a church need to be there for those who are suffering and who are going through trials. Jesus exemplified that here with the woman. He was there in her affliction which was the lifestyle that she was living. Jesus did not spend time on Romans Road and how she should get saved before she burns in hell. He loved her at the moment that she was in. I wonder what would happen as a church if we decided to treat those who are on the outside looking in with love, respect, honor, and hope.
Challenge: This is not just for the reader of this message but also for me. I challenge you and me to take a few minutes out of our socializing and grazing to find someone in the church that we attend to love on, to say hello to, to acknowledge, etc. Take some time to pray about who God can put across your path to show love to. You will have the opportunity to bring someone who is on the outside looking in, into the world of faith.and possibly change their lives for eternity.