Bible Reading: Luke 20:1-26
“Church people” are not always what they should be. Sometimes they behave badly…very badly. At times, even though they may be a Christian…they are still very imperfect and very immature, in their faith and their walk with God. They allow their own desires, interests, agendas, opinions, and priorities (wow, that’s a bunch!) to dictate how they behave and how they treat other people. On top of that…there are also people who claim to be Christians…but are not. They sit in a pew, the serve on a committee, they sing in the choir, they do just about everything that a Christian does…but they’re not a Christian. If you told them that…they would immediately be offended and become defensive. Their behavior can be very inappropriate, even outrageous…because they don’t truly have Jesus in their life. And finally, there are those people who simply are not Christians…and who, in fact, are out to do damage to the church and to the Kingdom of God. Wolves in sheep’s clothing. I know it’s hard to imagine…but there really are those kind of people. People who go to churches and become a part of the congregation…for the express intent of causing problems. And those are the very kind of people that Jesus talks about in this passage.
Thoughts about God for My Grandkids:
I was sitting in the home of a family in Ft. Lauderdale. The couple had a little girl, about 10-years-old, who had come to our Vacation Bible School. She had turned in a prayer request asking that the Pastor visit with her family. And now, here I was sitting in the living room of their trailer. The atmosphere in the room was very tense, to say the least. The moment that her father opened the door and I introduced myself…I knew that she had not told them that she had invited me. It was obvious that the father was not happy that I was there. But, he invited me in, anyway. And now, that little girl was just beaming with excitement. She was so glad to see me. At that moment I decided that no matter how I was received by her parents…it was worth being there just to see the smile on her face.
Conversation started rather slowly. After a few minutes, I told them how glad I was that their daughter had attended VBS and that I hoped that they would attend church service one Sunday, as well. The response that I got from the father was not exactly what I had expected to hear. “That’ll be a cold day in Hell.” Okay, so what do you say to that? I guess I wasn’t thinking very clearly at the moment. It kind of caught me off-guard. I blurted out, “Well, they don’t have many of those, do they?” Oooops! Did I just say that? I looked around…the father and mother were just sitting there, staring at me. Evidently, they couldn’t believe that I had just said that, either. It seemed like an eternity passed. Then, “Ha, ha, ha, ha! They don’t have many of those, do they? Ha, ha, ha, ha! That was great. I can’t believe you said that!” The father was about to fall off the couch he was laughing so hard. The mother was clearly uncertain about what to do. She looked at her husband. She looked at me. She looked at her husband. She looked at me. Then she started laughing, too. All the time…the little girl just sat there smiling. Then she leaned forward towards me and whispered, “Jesus said it was going to be okay.” What did she mean by that?
Are you ready? It seems that the little girl’s father had grown up in a Christian home. But not just any Christian home. Noooo. He’d grown up in the home of a Pastor. His father was a Pastor. He started telling me his life story…the whole sad, embarrassing, heart-breaking story. It seems that his father had really struggled being a Pastor. He had served in several different churches…and then finally, settled in to one church for a number of years. It was during those years that the little girl’s father was in Junior High School and High School. Anyway, the problems started about the third year that they were there. Things slowly got worse over the next two years and then finally, when the father was a Senior in High School…it exploded. There were business meetings where people said terrible things about each other and behaved very bad. The church membership divided up into different groups…and this group wouldn’t talk with that group and that group would talk with another group, and so on. And at the middle of it all was the Pastor. People ridiculed his leadership, they criticized his preaching, they questioned his understanding of the Bible, and they doubted his love for the members. Finally, he couldn’t take it, anymore. He’d had enough. He resigned and left the church. The family moved to another town where he took a job working as a salesman in a clothing store. Not long after, the little girl’s father graduated from High School and moved out of the house. Eventually, he met a lady and they got married. They had a little girl…and here she was…right in front of me…looking at her daddy…looking at me…and I knew what she was thinking…”Please, Pastor, help my daddy to love Jesus.” The father looked at me and said, “The day that my father resigned from that church I swore that I would never step foot in another church as long as I live. The worst I have ever been treated was by people who called themselves Christians.”
I couldn’t help myself…but tears started flowing down my face. He looked at me like he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. I said, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for what happened to you and your family. It was wrong. I would like to say that the people who did those things were not really Christians…but I don’t know them. But I do know that whether they were, or not, they were wrong. They did not behave like Christians should behave and they dishonored the name of my Lord. And I am terribly embarrassed.” The father was surprised. I think he expected me to try to defend what the people had done. To make excuses for them. But he didn’t anticipate this kind of response. His face softened and his whole body seemed to relax. I asked him how his parents were doing and where they were living. We talked for another hour, or more. Finally, I asked him if it would be okay for me to pray before I left. He nodded. I prayed and asked God to forgive the people who had hurt his family. I asked God to help the father to be able to forgive them, as well. I stood up and shook the father’s hand and told him how much I respected him for allowing me to visit with them. I knew it must have been difficult. I had walked out the door and was about halfway down the porch steps when the father said, “Preacher.” I turned around, “Yeah.” “We’ll see you in church next Sunday.” “Thank you. I look forward to seeing you, again.”
As I walked across the yard the mom and the little girl stepped onto the porch with the father…one on each side. They stood with their arms around each other watching as I got into my car. Then that little girl lifted her hand and waved goodbye to me. And that smile…that beautiful smile…had spread…from her face to her dad’s and her mom’s. Now, I’ve just got to tell you something…I don’t know if I have ever seen a more beautiful sight in all of my life.
Jesus had people who ridiculed His leadership, criticized His preaching, questioned His understanding of the Bible, and doubted His love for people. In fact, the religious leaders were so absolutely determined to get rid of Him…that they sent in spies to catch Him saying, or doing something, wrong. Oh, they put on a good show. They acted all religious and holy. They sounded like God-fearing people. But they were snakes in the grass. Wolves in sheep’s clothing. Can I tell you something? I’ve had the same thing happen to me.
Now, let me be very clear about something. Not everyone who disagrees with something at the church is one of those guys. Sometimes, even well-meaning followers of Christ don’t act in a very Christ-like manner. Give them grace…be patient with them. As someone has said, “God’s not finished with them, yet.” Then, there are others who go to church…and are maybe even involved…but have never really received Jesus as their Savior. Sometimes they do and say things that you can’t believe. But remember, they don’t know Jesus as their Savior. You can’t expect them to live like a Christian…because they’re not. And what makes it even more difficult is that they may not even realize that they’re not a Christian. And finally, there are the guys I mentioned above…the wolves, the snakes. They are there for one reason and one reason only…to destroy what God loves…His people and His church. They are literally spies for the Devil…doing his work.
So, why am I telling you all of this very bad news? Because there is a good chance that at some point in your life you will run into some of those characters at church. And I don’t want them to have the affect on you…that they had on that little girl’s father. You will see them do and say terrible things…in the name of Jesus, none-the-less. But don’t let them affect your relationship with Jesus. You base your relationship with Him…on Him…not on anyone else. Instead, do two things. One, keep falling in love with Jesus. How? Read your Bible. Pray. Serve Him. Love people. Live a life that is pleasing to Him. That’s how. Second, love the very people who are so messed up and are causing the problem. They need to know Jesus in the worst way. In fact, Jesus said that he didn’t come for the good people…but for the bad people. And brother, are they bad! So love them. Give them grace. And you be faithful…to God and to His church.
Love you more than bunches and bunches,