While it is always dangerous to judge the heart of someone else, we are called to exercise wisdom in determining who we spend time with. I was reminded of this when I read this verse in Jeremiah.
” . . . you are near in their mouth and far from their heart”Jeremiah 12:2 (ESV)
I wonder if most believers have experienced this in the church at one time in their lives. We find people whose talk and whose actions seem to be vastly different. What is really difficult is when this type of person is in leadership in the church.
Sure, we all suffer from this gap between our words and our actions. Who among us hasn’t found solace in Paul’s lament in Romans 7 of his inability to live as he knew he ought to live. We are encouraged to know that we are not alone in our sense of falling short of where we’d like to be.
We then take great comfort in Paul’s declaration in Romans 8:1 that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.
The goal is to find those who confess the gap and are seeking to allow God to work in their lives to close that gap. You will know this by how they react when confronted with their hypocrisy.
I’m thinking at this time of a painful experience in a previous church. The pastor would say really stupid things like he and his wife never had an argument. He maintained that he had a perfect marriage.
Those of us who have been married know that this could only be the case if one spouse was severely medicated at all times. Put two sentient people in a relationship and sooner or later there will be conflict. So the pastor’s statements about having a perfect marriage were obviously pure nonsense.
And even if it were true, by some amazing miracle, a man who reached such an elevated state of perfection would be of limited use in helping someone like me since he could hardly understand my struggles.
My lament is that I lingered too long in that church thinking that I could make a difference or I could help people in the midst of the confusion. Because the pastor had a skewed view of reality and a huge gap between what he claimed to believe and what he actually practiced, the church became a huge mess, and people were deeply hurt as a result.
So, what am I looking for in a church?
I’m looking for other sinners who know they need lots of grace. I’m looking for people that welcome the broken knowing that only God can make them less broken. I’m looking for those who ache with a desire to close the gap between their belief and their behavior and who are willing to submit to God and their fellow believers for that closure to take place.
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