The worse a person felt about [oneself], the more likely [he/she] saw Jesus as a refuge. Has the church lost that gift? Evidently the down-and-out, who flocked to Jesus when he lived on earth, no longer feel welcome among his followers. What has happened? – Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace?
Getting into this new book got me thinking about the opinion of the church by people who are outside of the church. This question has plagued me my whole life. I wonder why it is that people don’t want what the church has to offer, and/or they reject the premise that a loving God exists. The only explanation I have is that the Church has not shown people the kind of Grace that Jesus showed the people that met him.
From elementary school through high school, from youth ministry to counseling, I have been confronted by the pain that many people feel. It seems as though when pain is experienced, or even self-imposed, that people who subscribe to the idea of a loving God react as though there is a safety net, below which they cannot fall, whereas, those who do not believe, react as though the glass ceiling has fallen ever closer to crushing them completely.
I have to believe that the church could make a difference in how people experience pain, and shame. I think the difference between the church that shares grace, and the one that hides grace under lock and key, is that some have experienced grace, where others have not.
I am not implying that some who call themselves the church are not saved (well, I am, but that’s not the point right now), I am suggesting that some have had their sins laid before the world, and have had to wallow in their own debauchery. Their sin, and shame have taught them the value of grace and mercy. They are able to share real grace, because they are recipiants of real grace.
It’s like the Prodigal Son. In the foreign country, broke and broken, the son found himself shamed by the food for which he hungered. It was that conviction that allowed him to recognize the error of his ways, and return to the father.
The father accepted him, but the elder brother did not.
What can we do to make the contemporary church look more like the father, and less like the elder brother?