I have several atheist/agnostic friends. My Christian friends are often puzzled as to why those who were raised in the church no longer believe in God. What, we wonder, has stood in their way?
One major issue is: the church is in the way! We say one thing and live another. We call ourselves “little Christs” and act like little devils! We judge non-Christians for acting like non-Christians, but turn our heads when our fellow Christians act like non-Christians!
Another serious issue is our acute carelessness with our words. Think about this: what do we say to that young, unmarried, girl who is pregnant (and probably feeling scared and alone), and visits our church one Sunday? Do we even bother to greet her?
Or, do we stand to the side, in our little cliques, loudly whispering about what “an exceptionally horrible sinner” someone “surely” is, to get pregnant out of wedlock? Or maybe we’re nice enough to her face, but in our head, and after church, on the way home, we’re thinking what a “disgusting sinner” she is.
Or what about the ex-con who comes in to church, alone and ashamed? Do we hurry past him, hoping he won’t want to greet us? Or we tell him he’s not welcome there? Didn’t Jesus say he qualifies as “one of the least of these”?
Aren’t we forgetting that we’re no better than him/her? Who of us can say that we’re without sin? No one! We have all sinned, and it’s only by the incredible mercy and grace of God, who died for us, that we are without blemish in God’s eyes.
Guess what? That sinner you know, can be saved just as simply as you were! We are no better than them, and if we pretend that our salvation is by our merit, then we are slapping God in the face, and we are driving away those who most need to be in church, learning who God is: the spiritually sick and broken ones.
“The church is not a museum for saints, but a hospital for sinners.” – Unknown
“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'” – Matthew 25:45
“This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace though the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” – Romans 3:22-24
“Whoever had my commands and obeys them, He is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” – John 14:21
“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.” – Romans 13:8
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. Of one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead…. In the same way, read more even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she have lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” – James 2:14-17, 25-26
(All verses from New International Version)