I have heard people characterize Christ’s Bride as self-centered and self-serving. It is true some churches consistently put their own comfort ahead of the lost, or even their brothers and sisters in need. I have also heard others say the church is known more for what it is against than what it is for. I concede the mean-spirited approach some believers use to address sin sends the wrong message to the world.
However, in general, I believe these perceptions are highly overblown. Don’t get me wrong. As a preacher’s son who grew up in the church I have certainly seen the inauthentic side of things. I have met plenty of Christians with questionable character. I have been hurt by those who held me to an unrealistic standard and used my father as a whipping post for their personal insecurities and private sins. Yet, it seems to me these behaviors have more to do with fallen human nature than faith, and they are exhibited inside and outside of the church. At least in the church there in an emphasis on spiritual principles that bring people back to their senses, and I am convinced more times than not believers get it right. Most Christians want to glorify God with their lives and ministry. Unfortunately, those who don’t are the ones who leave the most dramatic impressions in our world.
For these reasons I refuse to allow Satan’s occasional victories to overshadow the radiance of the church as a representative of God’s grace. The next time you visit a local hospital, pay attention to its name and mission statement. Go online and research how it came into existence. There is a good chance your hospital started as a non-profit outreach by Christians wanting to show mercy to their community. The same thing is true of children’s homes, homeless shelters, food banks and disaster relief organizations.
In recent years, Christians have been reaching out to those caught up in the tragedy of human trafficking. Adult entertainment, prostitution and pornography are all a part of a cruel system that steals the souls of men and women, and sometimes enslaves the most vulnerable members of society. Wherever we find people risking their own safety to rescue those who are being exploited by these industries, we find the love of Jesus. I have met law enforcement officers who are passionate about shutting down human trafficking operations because their devotion to the Lord drives them to defend everyone’s dignity.
The church is making a difference everywhere. Her beauty radiates in school classrooms, community youth leagues, inner city ministry, courtrooms, boardrooms and politics. She is in Hollywood, Nashville and Times Square, and every time there is a disaster it is the church that rushes in to serve in the name of Christ.
I am not ignoring the fact that the church is sometimes a part of the problem. Anywhere we find good people sharing their faith with those in need, we also discover those who use religion as a vehicle for selfish human ambition. I believe I have been fair in establishing this reality. On the other hand, I am convinced Christians have been so faithful in touching their world, there is a sense in which our culture has taken their benevolence for granted. This is why it is more common to see the church criticized for the malevolent acts of a few than praised for the loving acts of the vast majority.