By Céleste Perrino-Walker
Mark played the piano at church. It was his “thing,” and he was really good at it. He even invented his own compositions on the spot and played them when the service was over and people were exiting their pews. But some of the church people complained that he played with too much energy for the sanctuary and wanted him to play more “solemnly.” Mark doesn’t go to church anymore.
Angie was artistic. She liked to experiment with her outfits, she changed her hairstyle every week, and she often tried out different styles of makeup—some of them very dramatic. She was trying to find what worked for her, but the church people didn’t like it. They wanted Angie to look a certain way. Angie doesn’t go to church anymore.
Mark and Angie are both examples of what can happen when someone—often a young person—doesn’t quite fit the accepted church “mold.” If you grew up in church or checked out church and got the hairy eyeball from church members, you know how Mark and Angie felt. It’s hard to concentrate on worshipping God when people are frowning at you.
And on some level, you might wonder if these people are really just expressing how God feels about you. After all, they are supposed to be representatives of God. Maybe God doesn’t approve of you, either. Maybe you should clean up your act or at least figure out how to blend in better before you give God much more of your time. So you leave church, too, but before you have a chance to figure it out, you drift away. And the next thing you know, you’ve left church and God far behind.
Take one step back
Before you scoot out the door, let’s take a moment to consider something, shall we? God does not approve of everything done in His name by people who claim to represent Him. From the Inquisition to the Crusades to the treatment of Native peoples in America by Christian settlers to jihadists who commit acts of terror in God’s name, people through the ages have acted in ways God would never condone, much less appreciate.
Frankly, they make Him look bad.
But what we have to remember is that just because someone says they are a Christian—meaning they represent Christ—doesn’t mean they actually do. There are genuine, well-meaning Christians who just get it wrong sometimes, and there are people who claim to be Christians but don’t act anything like the One they say they are following. There’s a very easy way to tell the difference between the two. Jesus said that the world (that’s everyone) would know His followers because of one thing they would all have in common: love (John 13:35).
Of course, just understanding that not all Christians are accurately representing Christ won’t be enough to make you want to stick around church if everyone seems to be hating on you for something. Who needs those losers, anyway? Actually, you might. Or maybe they are the ones who need you.
Just because you can’t see eye to eye with the people at your church is not necessarily a reason to jump ship. It’s possible that they will eventually come around, particularly if they see that you are sincere in your own beliefs, that you have a growing relationship with God, that you love them. And maybe they will learn to stretch and grow and accept people who don’t look, talk, and walk exactly the way they do but still produce the fruit Jesus said His followers would have (Galatians 5:22-24).
And you might learn a little something, too. In being the bigger person, you will have to allow the Holy Spirit to change your heart, making it softer and more forgiving. You will learn to empathize with others and get a peek at what makes them act the way they do. Maybe they are scared or uncertain or feel threatened. Maybe you can encourage them. Maybe through your actions they will come to know God closer and understand Him better. The light of God shining from your heart might be the light they need to change and grow closer to Him themselves.
But you won’t know any of this if you turn your back on God and walk away from the church because of a raised eyebrow or a snarky comment. Only you can decide that your relationship with God is the most important thing there is and that no one, absolutely no one can ever take that away from you unless you let them.
But don’t let them. God is worth more than any persecution you might face. Get to know Him and share His love. Who knows who might be saved because they see God’s love through you?
Tags: Dealing With Worry/Anxiety/Stress, Christian Life
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