Like the politically correct crowd, church people have their own set of sub-culture terms and rules. Throwing styro-foam away may be a faux pas in political correctness, but the rules for religious people are numerous and often unforgiving.
Take Julie Smith for example. She was married for twenty years to a physician who became involved in abusing prescription drugs. He became so strung out that he had to be institutionalized for several years, which led to a divorce. The couple had one son.
While in treatment, Julie became a Christian, as did the son. When the doctor came out of the treatment center, he rejoined Julie and their child. Julie tried to join the church she was attending, which was in a wealthy suburb of Nashville, but was refused because she was living with a man to whom she was not married. Julie was offended and now wants nothing to do with that church.
The church leaders maintained the purity of the congregation, but they estranged a hurting young Christian to do so. Instead of reaching out as Christ would have done, the religious leaders chose to shun a baby Christian in need, justifying it with “Religious Speak,” which exonerated them of any wrongdoing.
What do you think? Did they do the right thing or not?
As I see it, the church lost a perfect opportunity to help a struggling family stabalize. Because the incident was public, many others knew of it, which made the church look like a bunch of self-righteous hypocrites. This was a lose-lose-lose situation, if I’ve ever seen one. Julie and her family lost. The church lost, and those who knew about it lost. Because of “Religious Speak,” however, those from the church felt justified and can’t see all the harm they’ve done. This is how religious abuse occurs, and it’s why millions have left the church.
The problem isn’t whether the church leadership was correct in refusing to grant membership before the woman remarried her former-husband, which she intended to do when she was certain he could maintain his sobriety. It’s much more significant than that.
Here it is: The leaders of the church believe they are “OK with God” based on faith at salvation, and then living obediently day to day, year after year. In their minds, they come to believe that God would have nothing to reproach them for as they live their lives. Julie, on the other hand, has fallen badly. Although the church leadership acknowledged she was a Christian, they believed she was living in a pattern of unrepentant sinfulness that justified excluding her from membership. This means that her lifestyle is more sinful than others. If you are going to point a condemning finger, you have to be prepared to have it pointed back at you. Self-righteous people never see this. It’s why they are self-righteous.
If that were true, the senior pastor should be excluded from membership because he is obese—an obvious glutton. In Christianity, however, gluttony gets a pass, perhaps because there are so many pastors who are grossly overweight.
Here’s the point. We are not only saved by grace but we also walk by grace each day of our lives. Not one thing any of us ever does is completely pure. All of our righteousness is nothing but filthy rags to God, but He loves each of us in spite of it. For any of us to think we are better than another is an error—the same error Satan believed which resulted in him being condemned.
Julie should have been allowed membership and all the help she needed to restore her broken family to health. That’s what the church is for, isn’t it? Instead, she has been forced to do it on her own—just like the rest of us. Is it any wonder why 100 million people believe the church is irrelevant?
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