I’ll admit that one of my favorite teachers is still my pastor from Florida. But since we left Florida over 8 years ago he also moved away and spent a few years pasturing a large church in Alabama before venturing out and planting a new church. And for the past eight years I have continued to download and listen to Chris’ sermons in my iPod.
I’ve been working my way through a series he preached last summer entitled Proof of Life, and he made a comment in the sermon I listened to earlier this week that has just been stuck in my head for days (I even shared it on Facebook yesterday as my status!) So here it is:
“See, here’s the issue, God has never expected anybody to clean up their life and THEN come to Christ. That’s a dead end street! Here’s what God says to people: ‘Come just like you are, come with all your hang-ups, faults, mistakes, sins, idiosyncrasies that you’re actively engaged in. Bring all of that stuff to me, the good, the bad, the ugly. I’LL cleanse you, I’LL wash you, I’LL change you, I’LL give you a new desire to do what’s right. You let ME begin working in and through you.'”
Go back and read that quote again. How many times do we expect Christians to always have it together? How many times do we prematurely judge or even condemn fellow believers because we perceive they have sin in their lives?
As part of my new job I am overseeing the professional development for the district’s instructional coaches (ICs) for grades K-8. An IC is a person who is supposed to come in and support a teacher and help them grow by guiding. But they are not supposed to evaluate the teacher. This past week I sat with about 10 of them and we had an excellent conversation in the difference between evaluating a teaching, coaching a teacher, and making a judgment call on whether a teacher’s practices are effective or ineffective. One of the marks of a good coach can be seen in the questions they ask – for the coach’s job is often more to draw the answer out of the teacher (helping them process through the question) than it is in giving them a solution.
If only we treated our fellow brothers and sisters in the church with the same attitude. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not suggesting we aren’t called to make a judgment call on believers when they are living in sin, and I’m not suggesting there is never a time to cut someone off if they refuse to repent. What I am saying, though, is that I think we rush to judgment and condemnation, forgetting that we ourselves deserve the same condemnation we so willingly place on others. Church needs to be a place where we can be honest about our struggles and sins, openly sharing them with trusted confidants who are there to support and guide us as we work to fully surrender ourselves to Christ working in us.
So ask yourself these questions:
- Do I feel like I have people at church with whom I can be honest and open with without fearing condemnation?
- Am I a person who can love and support others as they work through their sin?
- If the answer to either of those questions is “No”, what needs to change so the answer can be “Yes”?
The answer to the last question tells you what you need to do now.