Looking at the state of world beyond the Kenai Peninsula, I can see why so many have an increased amount of anxiety. It is at times like these that I feel that we need to encourage our neighbors to find comfort in faith. I have spoken to a lot of people over the years that tell me they have faith just not in a structured religious way. That is code for “I don’t go to church.” I can also understand why folks would want to distance themselves from the church. It has developed a reputation for unforgiveness and even anger to the world beyond its doors. The church should be a place where we find forgiveness and healing.
I need to be upfront though, you see I love the church! In all her frustrations, irritations, sinful pride, and obtuseness; I can say without reservation that I love the church! I know that for the most part the church is full of hypocrites, back biting gossips, and at times insincere bullies, but I love her still. No matter how many sermons are preached by passionate, knowledgeable, loving and empathetic pastors; the church still is often weak on knowledge and craving milk instead of meat.
Some on the greatest sinners of all time have found their way into the church only to lay those sins out for all to see and thereby finding a measure of peace. No matter how battered, bruised and damaged the church becomes I still love the her! I can say that without any problem because I know that Jesus loves His church as well. While we were still sinners He willingly went to the cross and died for us. When He looks at us He only sees the beauty that we have become through His graceful touch. As flawed as the church seems to be it is still the very vehicle that He has chosen to represent Himself to the world.
In recent years the church has undergone some radical changes. Some of these changes have been because of the shift in the culture away from long standing traditions of right and wrong, good and bad and the like. I would like to say that this is a recent thing, but I fear that it has been creeping up on us for a long time. Both C.S. Lewis and Ravi Zacharias, two of the greatest theological minds of this modern age, have seen this.
Ravi paraphrases from Lewis’ book The Abolition of Man;
“But alas! What have we done to ourselves? We have told a generation that science is real and therefore the human brain is real. We have told them that food is real and therefore our stomachs are real. But we have told them that good and bad do not exist and therefore our emotions have nothing to do with reality. (In effect, he concludes) we have produced a generation of men with brains and stomachs, but no heart. In a sort of ghastly simplicity, we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise.”
I have walked the beaches of Normandy, strolled through the fields of Bastogne, sat in Flanders where real men bled and died for freedom. I have read the very words of men who fought and bled to buy the freedom that we take for granted today, for freedom is never free! And I weep for a lost greatness that should be our legacy. Now the free world is clamoring to give up this freedom for bits of shiny metal and glass beads. Gone is our national consciousness and as a culture I believe that we are in decline.
It is hard to imagine the church, the Bride of Christ, the living body that carries in its breast the Holy Spirit of God; has willingly walked away from her source of power. We now stand amidst the ashes of our former glory marginalized by the very people that we are charged with saving and loving. How do we, the body and bride of Christ, reach out to a world that does not want us? How do we look into the loving, tear streaked face of Jesus and say that we have done all we could to tell the world that He loves them?
If you are reading this I would like to encourage you not to pull back from the world but rather reach out. We cannot control the larger events that happen to the world, but we can do something for our neighbor next door. At the very least we can invite our friends to church and then work hard to not be the church the world imagines us to be. Jesus said that we should love our neighbor as ourselves, how well are we doing that?
Pastor AL Weeks and his family serve in First Baptist Church of Kenai. FBCK is a warm fellowship of believers that are committed to speaking the truth in love. Join them Sunday mornings at 10:45 a.m.