If we are in Christ, we are a part of His holy Bride, made clean by His blood. We still sin, but when we do we are covered by grace. The Apostle John left us these reassuring words: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Yet, it should not be our desire to sin. The price Jesus paid for His Bride is perhaps the best reason to avoid the very thing that caused Him such pain. This makes the existence of “bad stuff” in the church all the more troubling.
Bad stuff involves the purposeful sins Christians commit. These stand in such sharp contrast to the character of Christ, others can’t help but notice. I am not suggesting there is such a thing as a “not so bad” sin. However, some sins are clearly more destructive to the health and well-being of the church.
In Acts 5 there is an account of two disciples named Ananias and Sapphira who misrepresented their charitable contributions. They sold a piece of property, held back some of the profit and gave the rest to the apostles. The decision to keep some of the money for their personal use was not a problem, until they told the disciples their gift to the church included everything. We don’t know for sure what the motivation was behind Ananias and Sapphira’s big lie, but it is highly possible they were obsessively concerned about their public image. A man named Barnabas had just sold some property and given all of the proceeds to the church, and perhaps they didn’t want to be outdone. Unfortunately, lying to an apostle was tantamount to lying to the Holy Spirit, and both Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead. That’s some bad stuff.
Years later, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church at Corinth to confront some ungodly behavior. His harshest words were directed at a man who was having an immoral sexual affair with his step-mother (1 Cor. 5:1), and some members of the church who seemed proud of their permissive spirit. Paul directed the church to part ways with the immoral man in hopes the separation would lead him to search his soul and repent. Bad stuff does bad things to people.
One doesn’t have to look hard to find more bad stuff in the church through the centuries. The Crusades and the persecution of church Reformers are embarrassing examples from the distant past, while televangelist scandals and child abuse cases have kept the tabloids in business in more recent times. While I am in complete agreement with those who say the contribution of the church to society has been mostly good, the darker times leave a much greater impression on the world. For those who are already looking for a good reason to disregard God’s will, bad stuff gives them the ammunition they need.