One of the most common criticisms of the church is that it has too many hypocrites. To someone making this objection, I would say, “Are you kidding? Of course we have hypocrites. We also have liars, cheaters, snobs, adulterers, fornicators, people who are too greedy for their own good, crabby and ungrateful people, angry and mean-spirited people, jealous people, people who gossip, smart-alecks, rebellious teenagers, and we might even have a few bigots. Yes, we do let in just about anybody. In fact, the only type of people we don’t allow is perfect people. And that’s because Jesus himself said he wasn’t here for them. He was one time criticized for hanging around with some people with a bad reputation and he told them he wasn’t here for the healthy but for the sick.”
In Luke 15:1-7 Jesus tells a parable about a good shepherd who looks all over and tries everything to get back one lost little sheep. Well, that’s who the church is here for– for those who are lost in sin or confusion or envy or despair or even hypocrisy. And just because someone has signed up for membership doesn’t mean they have overcome all the sin in their life.
What would the critics want us to do? Keep out all hypocrites? Who else then should we keep out? And then who should decide who we allow in and who we do not allow in? Well, we have decided to let Jesus decide, and Jesus says let anyone in, that is, unless they are perfect.
Now, once in, everyone is expected to start making some changes. God accepts us as we are, but he doesn’t want us to stay like that. God expects us all to grow in faith and obedience to his Law. But all are invited to get started.
My wife and I had a couple kids. And do you know that when they came home from the hospital after they were born, they couldn’t even talk or walk?! But we brought them home anyway, hoping there would be some improvement in their abilities. And there was– but it took a while.
In God’s eyes, we are all children, babies even, crawling along in the faith, with a long way to go. But God is working on us, and he does that by his Word, and you hear that Word in church. Some people might be doing better than others, and some aren’t doing very well at all. But I do believe God is making some progress with each of us; and you never know how much worse someone would be if they weren’t coming to church and did not have that connection to God.
Yes, the church has its troubles, we often do not get along like we should, and we might not always give the best impression to outsiders. The church is made up of sinners, to be sure. But so is every other group of people. Does anyone ever find the perfection they seek at work, in schools, in the business world, in the government, in their entertainment choices, in their families, in their neighbors, in their friends… or anywhere?
I also have had my frustrations with the church, but there are some things that I get there that I can get nowhere else: an eternal word from God, and an opportunity to confess my sins and start over, a promise that lifts me above my troubles, and, a really wonderful group of people, though we are all still imperfect sinners. It’s a messy world out there, and the church is no different. But I go to church to find a word of grace and hope, the opportunity each week to have a fresh start and do better, and fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ.
In Numbers 10:29 Moses, an insider, makes an invitation to Hobab, an outsider. Moses said to him, “Come with us, Hobab, and it will do thee good.” Hobab says no, just like a lot of people we might invite to church often say no, perhaps citing the large number of hypocrites. But Moses asks again, “Please do not leave us,” he says, “we will share with you whatever good things the Lord gives us.” There the conversation ends. We don’t know what Hobab did. But this was a friendly invitation, from a tired man, who was leading a motley crew of imperfect and infuriating people, through a dreary wilderness. But Moses knew they were on their way to something better, and said, “Come on along. It will do thee good. The Lord has good things to give us.”
When people object to who we are and what we do, we oftentimes have to agree they might be right. We all have our ‘issues,’ as they say now-days. But none of us are in the church primarily because we are so good, or, because the rest of the people there are so good– but because God is so good. “The Lord,” Moses said, “The Lord has good things for us.”
As the Psalmist prayed many centuries ago, “Oh give thanks, unto the Lord, for He is good, and his mercy endures forever.”
Mark 2:16-18 — When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw Jesus eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Numbers 10:29…32 — Moses said unto Hobab, the son of Raguel the Midianite, Moses’ father in law, “We are journeying unto the place of which the Lord said, ‘I will give it you:’ come thou with us, and we will do thee good: for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel… And it shall be, if thou go with us, yea, it shall be, that what goodness the Lord shall do unto us, the same will we do unto thee.”
Colossians 3:15-17 — Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Praise ye the Lord. O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.