All last week, we talked about “other roads that lead to God” and why none of those “other roads” can take people where they really need to go. Other “roads” (belief systems) have some truth… only one road has The Truth. The difference between those other roads and the Christian faith is Jesus. And it is a difference that makes ALL the difference. Jesus did not come just to point us to truth… He came to make it possible for The Truth to live within us, and walk with us – to lead us to everything our Creator has for us (John 14:6). Only Jesus can do this for us… and He will do it for any and every person who seeks to make Him Lord of his/her life.
Last week we ended by talking about the latest (and the fastest growing) “faith” group… the “nones” (those who have no church affiliation). This group is comprised of three groups (Agnostics [discussed Friday]; Atheists [Sunday] and the Unaffiliated – those who may believe in God, they just have no church connection.
The Unaffiliated. This group includes those who: 1) are disenchanted with churches; 2) those who have been hurt by churches; and 3) those who prefer to keep their faith personal, and see no need for church affiliation.
In all honesty, much harm has been done by church people (including ministers and priests) to those who had a sincere desire to know God or were seeking to find Him. There are legitimate hurts that need a legitimate effort at healing and restoration. This effort has to come from The Church… to those whose hearts are wounded by their association with churches.
Jesus would have us remember that the Good Shepherd leaves the 99 to seek out the one who is lost and separate from the flock. More of a concentrated effort is needed to bring healing to the wounds caused “in the name of God,” to so many.
We also need to remember that at the heart of Jesus’ ministry was a desire to “bind up the brokenhearted” (from Isaiah 61:1; quoted in Luke 4:19). Jesus had compassion on the harassed and helpless, and on those who were sheep without a shepherd. He sought out the outcasts. He had time for the forgotten. He came to address their needs, heal their hurts, and restore value and hope to their lives.
The Church, if we are to be like Jesus, must do the same – with the same zeal… to restore those who feel cast aside. If we are to be like the Master, we must reach out to the unaffiliated, to seek their forgiveness for the wrongs done, and to do everything possible to let them know they are wanted and needed in the Family of God.
And… if you may have been hurt by someone in a church, I would just remind you that the centerpiece of the Church IS the Lord Jesus (not other Christians). He has not abandoned you. He has not forgotten you. He still seeks to pour out His grace on your life. And (this is the hard part) He wants you to come home to fellowship with His people. In spite of its deficiencies, The Church was Christ’s idea – and it is His way of ministering to all the people in His Family. It also provides a place where YOU can serve the needs of other people who may be hurting… or broken.
Above all else, we all need to remember that the hallmark of the Church is grace. Each of us is called to live in grace for each other and with each other (restoring and forgiving 70 x 7!) If anyone does not feel wanted or needed in our churches it may be because they have not found us to be the place of grace we are supposed to be.
We are all to love just as Christ has loved us… openly, abundantly, and unconditionally. “Walk in love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us…” (Ephesians 5:2)
The unaffiliated are seeking… they just don’t really know where to look.
Above all else our churches must be a reflection of the compassion and mercy of Christ.
They need to know that there really ARE good churches out there who love God and love people… and who would like the opportunity to share His love with those who are seeking to find it.
Jesus said it best: “If you seek… you will find!”