I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
While studying this week’s SS lesson, two things became apparent to me. God’s church has never been perfect. The sins of the church leaders described in Ezekiel 8 makes this clear. Many people today act shocked, to see things happening in the church, that ought not to be. They talk about how religious piety is wanting. They talk about the olden days when the church was pure. Friends, the church has never been pure and religious piety has always been wanting. People say, the standards are not upheld like they used to be. For example, I heard someone talking a while back about how when they were growing up, you never saw an Adventist drinking Coke or Pepsi at a church gathering, like you may today. True. We did not drink it at social gatherings but many of us drank it at home. So are the standards slipping, or are we just becoming more real? I am not condoning drinking Coke or Pepsi at Adventist gatherings or at home. What I am suggesting, is that we take a realistic look at things. Are our standards slipping, or are we just becoming less hypocritical, and not hiding what we really do, and who we really are?
I only use Coke and Pepsi as a handy illustration. We, as a church and as individuals, have issues much more pressing than soft drinks. This leads me to my second observation revealed in our SS lesson. Intercession. When we see things in the church that ought not to be, often our first instinct is to have the people responsible removed. Years ago, a children’s SS teacher told me how a pastor changed her life. She was a smoker and a SS teacher. Convicted she should not be smoking, and teaching the children, she confessed to her pastor that she should no longer be teaching the children. The pastor told her she had it all wrong. She should keep teaching the children’s SS class. It was the smoking she should quit! By God’s grace she quit smoking and continued teaching. When my shirt gets torn, it is easier to throw it away and buy a new one than it is to sew and fix it. When we see people with problems in the church, we think it is easier for them to just leave and get someone else, instead of helping mend the people with problems. Jesus is not into quick fixes. Jesus is not into throwing people away because they are broken. This is why He has stood by a church so imperfect for not just centuries, but millenniums. Jesus wants to mend and heal His broken church and broken people. What the church needs is prayer warriors like Daniel, who in Daniel 9 interceded for the church of his day, and even saw himself as part of the problem, and saw God, not himself, as part of the solution. Instead of praying for people who we perceive to be tainting the church to leave, we should first intercede for them and pray for their salvation. After all, if we truly believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives and purify the church, why don’t we give the Holy Spirit time to do His work?
I understand church discipline is Biblical and has its place, but intercession has its place too, and it comes before church discipline. In the past we may have used church discipline as a quick fix. Throw away that old torn shirt and buy a new one. A Christ like Church will take the time to mend people, instead of throwing them away. This may make the church less than perfect for a while. That’s okay. It takes to time to fix things correctly. So I challenge you, instead of being critical of your church, intercede for your church. And I challenge you to go a step further. Ask Jesus to send the outcasts, that no other church wants to your church!