One of the greatest problems IN the church today is the absence of grace. Surprisingly the church has become more and more tolerant and accepting of people and lifestyles on the OUTSIDE. But as that tolerance increases, the grace extended to leaders, pastors and church members has decreased. In essence it is okay to have issues until you decide you are IN.
The world sees this with great clarity even though, it seems, the church is blind to it. People from the OUTSIDE know to stay away, because they are loved on the outside. Their issues are always acceptable from a distance. They have a very real fear that once they reach the INSIDE they will be rejected, condemned and even damaged. Their issues simply are not welcome on the INSIDE. As a result, at least in America, church attendance is declining rapidly. WHY????
I believe the world hears a message of hope, love, forgiveness and acceptance.....the Gospel from our churches. And, as long as it is viewed from the OUTSIDE it is good. But once the world reaches the INSIDE they encounter a different culture. They find condemnation, judgement and ridicule. They find that if they don’t match the INSIDE, they are no longer loved, forgiven or accepted.
In this very culture of “church”, we have taken a group of people and displaced them from the OUTSIDE and the cast them from the INSIDE. We have taken a bunch of “lost” people and cut them off from community and grace. It is this group that finds Christianity to be a joke. They ultimately discover that the church, most frequently, doesn’t genuinely love the OUTSIDERS or the INSIDERS. They find that Christians simply love themselves and their own opinions.
Does this mean we do not share the truth to a broken world? Absolutely not. It is our calling to share truth. But, that truth must be shared in love. Does it mean that truth is meant to condemn broken and messy people? Absolutely not, Christ did not come to condemn, but to love and reconcile. (John 3:17) But, even in love and reconciliation, Jesus never veered from the truth. And, the result was a changed world.
If we want to truly change the world, see lives radically impacted and miracles happen... We have to overcome the INSIDER and OUTSIDER discrepancies of grace. We are called to love all people. We are called to exercise grace and forgiveness with everyone, and yet carry truth. And, it starts on the INSIDE. When we can effectively do it from the INSIDE, the OUTSIDE world (those not in our churches) find integrity and confidence in the Gospel we preach.
“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” ~ Jesus in John 13:34-35 MSG