Monday, September 6, 2010

Plagues that kill the church: (1) Legalism

Once upon a time , there was a young robust teenage boy attending a Youth Fellowship. He was the most annoying kid you could ever imagine. Wherever he was, he would bang the door, the tables, the chairs, he would make all sorts of commotion. When he spoke, not only was he loud but his breath was also very stinky. Because of all these, he did not have much friends. Every time he entered the door, all the others would exit through the other door.

The speaker of last Sunday's service was one of the youth who avoided this boy. He said, one time, this young fellow was hospitalized. And out of the "goodness of his heart" (which our speaker wanted to show his girlfriend before), he visited this sick boy. Little did he know that this boy told his girlfriend some lies. He said that he had one week left to live and all that. Because the girl was filled with compassion, he held the hand of the guy, and our (young then) speaker was silently enraged.

Surprisingly after one week, the boy indeed died. According to the doctor, he had brain cancer. The boy didn't tell anyone about it. It just so happened, when he was younger, a high fever had stricken him and affected his brain. When imbalances attacked, he would act wild and hit whatever he sees. His parents (who were nonbelievers) treated him as a hopeless case. They had learned to ignore him. I guess that was why he attended the fellowship every week. He thought he'd be able to make friends in the church, unfortunately he wasn't given a chance by the people inside.

In another church, there was a young man with long braided hair in a bohemian rugged outfit that sat near the pulpit. It was his first time to attend a Sunday service. He didn't know anyone so he was left seated alone. Some of the veterans in the church looked at him with contempt as he smoked a stick of cigarette. Murmurs could be heard within the four corners of the temple. Then suddenly, the oldest person in the congregation, about 92 years of age, slowly walked towards him, one step at a time holding his crane, he sat beside him and placed his arm around him.

The following week, this young man brought 13 of his friends, and the week after he brought 40. This man later on became a pastor.

It's odd how sometimes the church itself becomes a place that condemns, that judges, that shuns, instead of one that is a channel of grace. Instead of attracting sinners, we welcome them with curious gaze and judgmental stares. Instead of sitting with the tax collector (worst of sinners in Jesus' time), we sit at the opposite end afraid of being mocked at by our supposedly brothers and sisters in Christ. The question now is...

Are you willing to be like the 92 year old man who welcomed the smoker in the church? Or are you there staring, harboring a thought like, "Who does he think he is desecrating our sanctuary!?" If you answered yes to the second, woe to you for being a plague in the church. People won't stay if they don't feel the love of Jesus through you. I hope that you would have more compassion. It is compassion that makes a church attractive; it is through kindness that hearts are moved. I'm not saying that, he should go on with his smoking. Truth must still be told to him, if and only if, there is love through an established relationship.

Truth that is told in love is done out of grace, this builds the church.
Truth told without love is legalism, this kills the church.

Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but siting in judgment on it.
~ James 3:11

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