I had lunch with a friend on Friday. We are attempting to have lunch together once a month. The two hours we have flies by, the conversation jumps around and around but usually settles on church. We worked together in church for awhile. We come from different backgrounds, have different political viewpoints, have different life viewpoints and yet the friendship is good and strong. She talks, I listen. I talk, she listens. We respect each other and never once have I felt judged for disagreeing with her. I hope, she has never once felt judged by me either. Grace abounds in our friendship. It is good.
At the tail end of our conversation on Friday, as we talked about church stuff, we got onto the subject of why people go to church or don't go to church. It's a big topic these days. I've read many a blog post about the subject from many a Christian and the responses vary but usually there is one constant theme running through the reasons for not attending church. Hypocrisy.
I made the statement to my friend that as a church-raised, church-loving girl, I struggled a lot with the hypocrisy I see within the church. I fall into the hypocrite category at times, so pointing fingers feels really wrong. Not standing up and acknowledging the hypocrisy, though, seems wrong as well.
We preach forgiveness and redemption and hold grudges and anger. We preach social justice and grace and withhold grace to people who are "sinners" or don't look or act the way we think they should. We label certain sins as really, really bad and tend to overlook the verse that says "all have sinned and fallen short of the grace of God." We say that numbers of people in the seats don't matter, then look around and wonder where everyone is on a Sunday. (True confession, I caught myself so many times overlooking the youth who were sitting right in front of me, wondering where everyone else was.) We say God and Christ can do anything but give up on people when they don't change they way we think they should in the time frame we think they should. We confess faith in Christ on Sunday but don't live that faith out Monday through Saturday. Those are just a few of the things I've seen.
I've struggled with church a lot over the last few years. I love the church. I also recognize the church is not perfect. It's not perfect. It's not ever going to be perfect because the church is made up of human beings...imperfect human beings. I wonder if that is maybe the problem with the hypocrisy I see in the church. We work really hard at forgetting we are imperfect, striving for a perfection just out of reach and stumble all over ourselves trying to cover up the mess we make in the meantime.
I don't have any answers, just a pondering mind, a desire to keep seeking God and recognize and admit my imperfection...and the imperfection of that institution I love...the church.