Column: loving the people in the pews

By Scot Loyd, Contributing Writer

I once posted this question on my Facebook page: “For my friends who don’t attend church anywhere or did attend and have stopped, I’d like to know why?”

Many responded by expressing feelings of “being judged” when coming to church.

The following posts are typical of the judgment theme:

“There hasn’t been too many things in my life I keep hidden, I sin and I know it and I have been judged for it, that’s okay I don’t even mind judgment from my fellow man that much as long as they are living the life they are guiding me to live.

But time and again I would see people who sit in judgment not being honest about their mistakes and not allowing themselves to be corrected as they corrected others.

Often times I would want to go to church after it started and leave before it ended just to avoid the conversations that caused me to leave church feeling worse than when I came.”

Another young lady wrote:

“I went to church my entire life, practically. My childhood/teenage years were chaos due to family issues. Instead of having people there for me, I had people disappointed in me for not being the “perfect” example for my younger siblings.I had rumors spread about me.  And in my darkest moments, people turned their backs on me.

I have tried going to churches after all that I went through but the wounds are still extremely fresh and I just can’t. I still deal with fakes in my life but have learned that is just who a lot of church going people are and that is sad. Why people can’t see their faults as Christians, is beyond me.”

The emotions conveyed by these responses come through powerfully.

As Christians we can absolutely do a better job of loving people.

The tension that must be balanced is that the Bible does indeed call us sinners.

Romans 3:23 indicts us all “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

But God is the only one capable of sitting in judgment of sinners.

We should seek to remove any and all obstacles to the gospel, understanding that the tension the sinner feels when hearing the Word of God is resolved in the grace of God bringing all of us to salvation.

For some the judgmental attitudes descended into downright abuse.

Consider the following heartbreaking response:

“I was a forced into church three days a week. I would get hit if I did not go. Every time I have tried to join a church I feel like I am being forced to go and then I stop going. I get flashbacks of my youth.”

This kind of abuse from anyone who says they are a Christian or any institution waving the banner of Christ is evil, and should be labeled as such.

Sadly, I believe these responses are how many perceive the church and Christians today.

We have been called by Christ to be salt and light but sadly we end up becoming vinegar and darkness.

We need Jesus to re-engage our thoughts and re-ignite our hearts with the passion and compassion of the gospel.

One thoughtful young man shared a poignant analogy:

“A church gathering reminds many of a gathering with the in-laws who live out of state. You marry your spouse because you love her and she/he you. Then you’re told to go to a gathering with the in-laws (out of state) in which you have no daily/weekly relationship. Most of the in-laws are asking questions, and then making judgments in their minds about your answers. They may even begin teaching you a few things about your spouse “to help you out.

You begin to realize that your commonality is your spouse and that’s it. Further, you realize that their relationship with your spouse is obviously not the same as yours, yet you receive all kinds of recommendations or advice on how to “do life” with your spouse; whether it’s family related, work related, vacation related, etc. You leave the in-law’s house and trek back home… wondering what all just happened and why do you now feel sort of estranged from your spouse? This is just something I hear from many (sometimes from myself) that may help.”

As Christians we must lovingly proclaim the gospel and leave the judgment of sin where it belongs in the court of Christ and the pages of His Scripture.

The world is watching.

Faith Forward is a weekly column by Professor Scot Loyd.

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