On doing church

Most everything has a tradition. There are ways we do things because that’s the way we do them. We’ve always done them that way, because it works. It’s always worked. It always will. Don’t change it. Don’t even question it.

Church is that way. There is a certain style of song we sing. There is a certain way Scripture is preached. There is a certain look and feel to the building. There is a certain way we greet each other. There is a certain way we are supposed to act. There are certain friends we are supposed to (or not supposed to) have.

But what would happen if we didn’t do it that way anymore? I perceive this is where a lot of us are, those of us who were brought up a certain way but no longer do them. We sing new songs, not that the old ones were wrong. Don’t the psalms say to sing a new song? Sometimes our churches don’t look like churches anymore. They are buildings, yes, but sometimes we worship in places that are oblong, misshapen, misfit. Just like our faith.

And what about our faith? What is it we actually believe? Is it okay to befriend others who sin differently than we do? Can we love them just as they are? Does that somehow make us non-Christian? Isn’t God’s grace infinite? Is it okay if we don’t talk about judgement all the time? We know it’s there. We know the wages of sin is death. But isn’t God’s grace infinite? Can we talk about that for a little while? Don’t we need reassurance? Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine?

Can we show up to church wearing shorts and tee-shirts and flip-flops? Does God really love us just as we are? Does God really love the guy who sins differently than I do that just enrages me? Is it okay, fellow worshippers, if I actually make that person my friend? What is the second-greatest commandment? Love thy neighbor? Isn’t it supposed to be love thy neighbor except…? No, it’s not. There are no qualifiers.

Well, what’s the greatest commandment? Love the Lord? How do we do that exactly? It’s not by following rules or simply doing things we’ve always done. You could start by loving your neighbor, I suppose. You can’t go wrong there. There are things we’ll held accountable for on Judgement Day, like every idle word we ever uttered. I don’t think Christ will reprimand us for loving so-and-so. I mean, so-and-so is a sinner, right? Yes. Love them anyway.

What happens when my faith limps? What happens when this little light of mine doesn’t shine very bright? Is it a bad thing to ask God “why?” What if I admit my doubts? Does that make me a bad Christian? Is it my honesty that offends or the fact that my faith may not be rock-solid 100% of the time? Or does that just mean that I’m human? Doesn’t God still love me? Frail and weak. Is it okay if I’m not that strong? Can I still worship here?

Maybe church is where I can find a kindred soul. Perhaps it’s the place where there are no eyes of judgement, only sinners looking for a Savior. (Evangelism is just one beggar telling another where to find bread.) Church could be the place where I can whisper to the person sitting next to me, “I don’t know sometimes,” and he whispers back, “Me, either.” In that moment we connect. And the Father still loves us and we still love the Father. Maybe it’s really that simple, after all, and we just make it hard.

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