17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:17–18 NASB)
Having grown up in the church, I do not have the personal perspective of one who was outside and is now inside the circle of fellowship. I can, however, read articles and editorial comments as to how many perceive the church.
Many perceive the church as a gathering of folks who think themselves better than others because of their good behavior. Even people who might want to check out church are put off by the fact that their current lifestyle may not be acceptable and that they would have to clean up their act before coming to a worship service.
Contrast this with what we see in the Gospels. Jesus had sinners all around him. They seemed to enjoy his presence and did not feel condemned. In fact, to the woman caught in adultery Jesus explicitly told her that he did not condemn her (John 8:11).
Why then do “sinners” feel put off by the church, the gathering of people who are seeking to imitate the Jesus that sinners loved?
I’m under no delusions that if the church was perfect, that everyone would hold her in high opinion. Many willfully misrepresented or misunderstood what Jesus said when he was walking this planet; this same willfulness is in operation today.
The fact that some will not listen, does not relieve us of the duty of fulfilling our mission. Paul tells us in the verses quoted above that because we, as believers, have been reconciled to God, we have the ministry of reconciliation. God chooses to allow us to participate in the reconciliation of others to himself.
When visitors come to your church do they immediately apprehend that you are a group of the reconciled, looking to bring others into that same reconciliation that you’ve experienced? Do they feel loved and accepted? Do they perceive that reconciliation offers a way out of the struggles that they are currently experiencing?
Or, do they feel unworthy, unclean and irreconcilable when they visit? Do they feel that because of their clothing or piercings or tattoos or substance abuse or . . . that they are never to be included in the fellowship?
I’m not writing this as one who has this all straight. I can be just as comfortable doing church as the next person. I can settle into a routine and be cranky about somebody messing it up. Yet, I am convicted that there is a large chunk of our society that has no knowledge of Jesus and unless I am willing to get uncomfortable, they will remain ignorant.
I sometimes wonder if we, as the church, took our mission of reconciliation seriously if our society would not be a lot different than it is. Before we place blame for the condition of our social and political systems, we need to take a hard look in the mirror of Scripture and confess the areas where we fall short.
It is time for the church to be a fellowship of the reconciled, bringing others into the same reconciliation. We and our world will be different as a result.