I like to eat at Chili’s. I like to shop at Eddie Bauer. I like to sit down for coffee and conversation with friends at the locally owned coffee shop. And I typically enjoy my experience at all three of these favorite locations.
But occasionally, something can get a bit sideways. Sometimes the food is served cold, or they don’t have my size, or every seat in the establishment is full. Yet, I return again and again, offering a measure of grace to the places and people I value.
I suspect you have a few favorite places, too—places where you enjoy the products, the familiar faces, and the atmosphere so much that you’re willing to overlook a few mishaps.
Yet one environment that rarely receives this sort of social grace is the very place where it ought to be on display the most: the church.
Recently, a woman told me that she decided to leave her church community because of one difficult and awkward interaction. One! One rough conversation. One less-than-pleasant experience. That’s all it took for her to say goodbye. The church that she called home for years is now just some place that she used to go.
She’s not alone. Many people leave their church community for seemingly insignificant or overblown issues. The question we must ask is why? Why is the first choice to pull up roots and move on? Why is the knee-jerk reaction to leave? This isn’t how we respond to our favorite coffee shop. We don’t get our feelings bruised, puff up our chest, and boldly decide never to return.
Perhaps walking away from our community of faith is easy because we see so clearly the faults of our faith family. Perhaps it’s just too difficult for sinners to look past the sins of others to get a true glimpse of how God sees them.
It seems as though we easily forget that we’re all broken people. We forget that we’re all striving to live out our faith in Christ in honest, real, tangible ways the best way we know how. We forget that God is at work in each of our lives, redeeming us from the ways we’ve been beaten up by the sins of others and by our own sinful choices and struggles.
Without a clear and accurate picture of Jesus’ sacrificial payment on behalf of his people, you and I won’t see each other accurately. We will see the sin that’s stained us. We will feel the rough edges. When we dismiss other members of God’s church so quickly, we’re ultimately dismissing God and his sanctifying work in the life others.
To be a part of God’s church requires more relational grace than is easily given. It challenges us to see one another as God sees us—redeemed men and women who are part of a community that God is redeeming called his church. This is something to fight for, wrestle with, and champion—not something to simply turn and leave behind.
Written By: Pastor Rob Bentz
(This post was originally profiled on VyrsoVoice, the Christian Ebook Blog)