Do you mean there are hypocrites in church on any given Sunday? You gotta’ be kidding! Do you mean that some people never darken the doors or a synagogue until they are carried in by eight pallbearers? My heavens!
Now let’s get serious. One of the things happening today is the number of folks who rebel against “organized religion” is on the rise, and they are carving out their own style of worship in non-church settings. Actually, it’s not a bad thing. God has never been confined to religious structures. Sure, I can pray on a golf course, or sing the doxology in a fishing boat, but I don’t usually do that—although my golfing and fishing could use a little help. No, I guess the thing I’m talking about is the number of people who say they believe in God or some “higher power”, but somewhere along the way wrote the church or synagogue off because they got disillusioned with God’s people.
“When I was a child, I was made to go to Sunday School and church every Sunday and I’ve had enough of it to last me a looong time,” is a common refrain. (Shame on parents for trying to expose their children to the best influences possible.) In too many cases, however, believers in exile have every reason to feel this way. They’ve been hurt by God’s people and the sad thing is, when church people say or do hurtful things, those hurt can feel like God did it.
The church has always been made up of sinners and saints, hypocrites and holier-than-thous. And when I consider my own imperfections (sounds better than sins, right?), I realize that I’m right at home with the hypocrites. None of us are everything we ought to be. So, being sinners is one of the things we have in common.
Maybe we’ve got church all wrong. Is it a museum for saints instead of a hospital for sinners? Is it the place we go because we feel we’ve got it just right and want to show it off? Jesus put it this way, “Those who are well don’t need a physician, but those who are sick do” (Matthew 9:12). Is anyone completely well?
So, are you looking for a “perfect church”, with saints on every pew? Friend, there “ain’t none”, believe me. Okay, so the preacher can’t preach, the choir can’t sing, and the ushers don’t “ush” right. They may need a few prayers and some encouragement to do the best they can. Did I join a church to worship the preacher or priest or rabbi? I don’t think so. I rather enjoy looking a little “holy” under a black robe and a white stole, but no one knows better than me that underneath all that religious garb is a scrawny, struggling pilgrim on a journey.
More people attend some type of worship service each week than those attending all sports events combined. Maybe folks want to hear something relevant that could help them to cope better with life? Maybe all of us would be a little less neurotic if we could blend our hearts and voices in corporate worship. Better still, all of us need to reach out with ministries and missions to help heal a hurting and hungry world.
As I look at many decades of ministry within organized religion, I have a lover’s quarrel with the “system” many times. Despite my qualms, I can truthfully say that these faulty church people have helped me survive many life changes. Bona fide sinners have ministered to me in times of grief and despair. So I feel right at home with the hypocrites, because I suspect I “R” one.
As the poet says:
There is good in the worst of us,
Bad in the best of us,
So it behooves the rest of us,
No to judge any of us.
When I realize that “organized religion” is responsible for helping millions across our globe who suffer from hunger and other maladies, I get a clearer picture of what we are here for. And when I join other sinners praying, “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven,” I believe that it’s a good thing to work in that direction. So, if you’re looking for a church home, come join the rest of us hypocrites.