Some on the outside look at church people as smug moralists who look down on the sinners outside. One does not need to search very hard on the internet to find some preacher, of the hellfire and brimstone variety, screaming out condemnation on the sinners outside. When we practice behavior like this, we deserve the condemnation.
I want to assure anyone who has experienced church in this way that this behavior goes against everything that Christ stands for. For example, this morning I read some verses in 1 Peter that speak to this. If the church is acting as she ought, these are the traits that outsiders should see:
“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:8–9)
Church leaders would do well to allow visitors to assess their congregations on how well they display these traits. Church leaders would do well to allow their congregants to assess how well the leaders are displaying these traits.
Are there factions in the leadership? Are the leaders sympathetic to the people they are called to lead? Do they treat others as brothers and sisters in the Lord? All the qualities listed by Peter in the verses above should be on display in the church leaders.
As congregants, we too should be assessing ourselves as to whether we are displaying these traits. Notice that Peter addresses this encouragement to “all of you.” We all are called to diligently seek to have these traits displayed in our lives.
As I write this, one of these traits stands out to me as foundational. That trait is humility.
When we have a firm grasp on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and understand our desperate need for a savior, humility should be the result. When we understand how deeply rooted is the evil in our own hearts, we should be more forgiving of the sin in others.
It has been my experience that those who are truly humble have less difficulty in displaying the other qualities mentioned by Peter.