It might be due to Easter weekend or the Easter season in general, or it might be something else, but for whatever reason, I’ve come across a lot of complaints about the church. “Church” as I mean it here is the global body of Christ; not the Catholic Church or the Protestant Church, but rather all those who consider themselves followers of Jesus Christ. Their complaints are mostly about the lack of authenticity, the lack of genuine love – the love of Jesus. And while I was pouring my coffee and milling over what I might possibly say in reply, I felt a strong conviction.
What I wanted to say to all those who complain about how the church isn’t operating as it was meant to is that if they notice such a problem, they should be the ones making an effort to change it. And in the very act of thinking those words, I realized I needed to hear that message just as much as anyone else. I complain about church politics and church hypocrisy more than anyone else, when I really think about it. I’m tired of the debates about inerrancy, salvation, or using drums during worship. I’m also tired of the common lust for material possessions and monetary gain I see rising up within Christianity. And I’m sick and tired of the increasing carelessness towards sexual purity. And while I constantly argue that others should do the work, I fail to realize that I, since I notice it, should also be one of the ones making a change.
“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees,” Jesus says, “which is hypocrisy,” (Luke 12:1). “Take care,” He says later in Luke 12, “and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions,” (v. 15). Here I am noticing and being frustrated by the general pursuit of things and wealth within Christianity, and yet here I am partaking in it all, too. Here I am acquiring countless books – mostly because I want to read them all, but partially for the sake of just having them. I am the biggest hypocrite I know.
Gandhi has been famously quoted with, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” but I believe he got it terribly wrong; a better saying is, “Be the Jesus you wish to see in the world.” I could wish for a number of things to change, but would they really benefit anyone else besides me? Probably not. But when we strain to be the Jesus we wish to see in the world, we align ourselves with a God-man who teaches us to renounce all that we have so we could be His disciples (Luke 14:33). It’s the only kind of change that would truly benefit all parties involved because Jesus would be the one making the change, not ourselves.
Even so, it takes commitment. It takes sacrifice. It takes a constant and genuine repetition of saying, “Not my will be done, Father, but yours,” (Luke 22:42). It takes a constant devotion to following Jesus. And what I’ve been hit with today is the realization that no one else ought to be the Jesus that I wish to see in the world; I should. I should be the one removing my Sunday smile and instead being authentic and real. I should be the one living generously with what I’ve been given. I should be the one doing everything possible to retain sexual purity. I should be the one straining to follow Christ as fervently and simply as possible in order to see the Christian culture begin to change.
It won’t happen over night; it’ll take my entire life.
And that’s the point.