Don’t Remember the Failing Christians
In talking to people who leave the church, I hear one justification more than any other. The departing Christian leaves because of the members: they are hypocritical, they gossip, they are unfriendly/unloving. I’ve become cynical about these claims. When somebody says, “I’m leaving because nobody reaches out to me,” I hear “I’m leaving because nobody reached out to me except for those who did.”
Let’s suppose the disgruntled Christian has indeed seen brethren be hypocritical, gossipy, unfriendly, politically fixated, or unloving. Certainly, brethren can be all these things. Who believes all Christians are all these things all the time?
When a Christian says, “I am going to overlook the good and focus on the bad,” that is fundamentally ungodly behavior. I mean that quite literally. In His relationship with us, God does exactly the opposite. He is merciful with our failures. He forgets our sins, but He remembers our good works. When Christ looks at His ransomed church, He sees an assembly that is unspotted, unwrinkled, holy, and without blemish. Not because we are pure, but because we are continually renewed and purified.
Dwelling on bad behavior of brethren is seductive. The Devil makes it seductive. He loves to get us brooding over all the wrongs, real and imagined, that we have suffered. However, if we are committed to the higher calling of imitating Christ, that is precisely what we must not do.
If you’re thinking about giving up on God’s people, don’t remember their sins. Remember their good works. Don’t remember the failing Christians. Remember the amazing ones. Remember all the people you have seen devoted to the word, joyful in worship, humble before the King, generous and hospitable. Remember the brethren who did reach out rather than dwelling on the ones who didn’t.
Overlook the sin committed in ignorance (unless you believe that you never sin ignorantly). Celebrate the goodness. In short, love, and continue to belong.
– Ralph Walker, adapted from Matthew Bassford, preacher in Columbia, TN