But I guess the worst part is when I was stigmatized in the Church. Whether that’s just what I felt or that’s how they made me feel is no longer important, what’s more important are the things I learned through the circumstances.
Last week, a young man in our Church approached me and started a conversation. At first, it was just a nice chit-chat until it flowed into personal stuff.
Minutes later, he asked for counseling. He did not give so many details, perhaps due to time constraints. But by the grace of God, I immediately understood what he is going through –I saw myself in him –a young man struggling with self-condemnation and self-rejection. This is exactly what I went through when I was his age. And I know how painful and hard it is.
I was also his age when I started to reap the consequences of my “happy-go-lucky Christian life”. Everything backfired on me. The “chickboy” image I used to be so proud of when I was a teenager and still shallow in faith, alongside being branded as arrogant (which I really am during my restless youth days), became a stain I can not remove. But I guess the worst part is when I was stigmatized in the Church. Whether that’s just what I felt or that’s how they made me feel is no longer important, what’s more important are the things I learned, such as:
- The Church is not a building, but a group of people made up of dropouts and sinners and hypocrites and failures and fools.
- Most of these people often attempt to earn God’s favor by their little acts of self-righteousness — at least subconsciously.
- These people are often judgmental. They measure each other against each one’s standards which they readily call “God’s standard of righteousness”.
But there is a truth larger than life, and even bigger than all my hurts and pains:
- All the things I detest in the Church and the attitudes I hate about some of these people, are also found in me far too often than anyone else.
- I am never different than these people, in fact I could be worse. The imperfections I see in them, is nothing compared to what I see in myself.
- And even if I belong to a perfect Church without all the disgusting flaws, my own imperfections will make that Church imperfect.
- But in spite of all the filthy things and secret sins I hated in myself, Jesus still saw me worth dying for.
- And if I am worth dying for, then so are these people. Who am I then to judge?
John 4 talks about the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman. He knows everything about the Samaritan woman. Everything. But he did not condemn her. Instead, he offered the living water: himself. Jesus cares for her so much that He chose to reach out to the adulterous woman even though he is hungry.
I love this Church, imperfect and all, because it reminds me that just like them, I too need a savior.
Today, God often allows us to see all these imperfections, both in ourselves and in other people’s lives, so we will see the painful but liberating truth that it’s
hard impossible to love a sinner, yet God loves and He sent his only Son to take the penalty for our sins and died in our place.
And that, is the point of grace.