Have you ever been in church and felt somehow uneasy, as if others are looking at you in judgment?
That’s sort of where this fictional story takes place. But before you discount it, think about some of these attitudes that might be pervasive today?
One morning in a church service a young woman felt the tug of God at her heart and she couldn’t ignore it. In her mid 20’s, this young woman who sat by herself for the past couple Sundays near the back of the church was hanging on every word the pastor had to say, and so at the end of the sermon all it took was the pastor’s invitation to “come as you are” and she was in the aisle walking towards the pastor.
Several minutes later, with tears streaming down her cheeks, the young woman prayed the sinner’s prayer, agreed that her past was wrong, and gave her life wholly to God by accepting Jesus Christ as her personal Lord and savior.
Every Sunday thereafter she was back in church, this time sitting a little closer to the front, but still alone, at least in the beginning. She never came with anyone else, but over time she began to make friends in church. As time progressed, she became involved in church activities, and even volunteered to work with young children, teaching Sunday school to kindergarten and pre-school age children. God had tugged on her heart; He’d spoken to her through the pastor’s sermons, and she responded eagerly to what she was hearing from God’s word.
Some time later she began to have some casual conversations with a young man in church. The young, bright college graduate had just earned his teaching credential and was teaching at a local junior high school in town.
Over time the two began dating and as things turned out, he proposed. Things were going well until it gossip began to surface that the young lady’s checkered past included a police record for drugs and prostitution.
The gossip continued and got to the point where people were actively approaching the young man to encourage him to break off the wedding, after all, the pastor’s son shouldn’t be marrying a girl with such a background. In fact, the issue became such a distraction in the church that the church leaders called a meeting of the congregation to discuss it because the whole issue was threatening to split the church. In attendance were the young couple, the pastor and his wife, and many of the church members who had long since taken sides in the matter.
During the meeting the young woman became very upset about all the things being brought up about her past. As she began to cry the pastor’s son stood to speak. He could not bear the pain it was causing his fiancé, and with a red face and anger in his voice he said sternly: “My fiancée’s past is not what is on trial here. What you are questioning is the ability of the blood of Jesus to wash away sin. Today you have put the blood of Jesus on trial. So, does it wash away sin or not?”
You could have heard a pin drop on the carpet when he finished; in fact, that was all he said before sitting down once again. Those who had been the loudest in their gossip leading up to this meeting didn’t say a word either. Some were visibly embarrassed.
So how did this story end? Well, I can’t say; that’s not the point.
The point is that inside every church are people who lie, cheat, steal, commit adultery or do all of the above. Some yell at their children in the car on the way to church, and then smile once they get there as if nothing bad ever happened.
A friend of mine likens church to a hospital where you go to be healed, but instead of being healed of physical sicknesses or wounds, the wounds are emotional and spiritual. Such is the case with all of us.
If Jesus’ words are true in that we’ve all done terrible things (called sin) and have missed God’s mark of perfection (see Rom. 3:23), then His words of invitation in Rev. 3:20 are not only equally true, but a necessary first step in our healing process.
It no longer mattered to God what this woman’s checkered past was because the death Christ experienced and His subsequent resurrection from the dead paid the price for our sin and defeated the punishment that this young woman would have otherwise deserved. And since it didn’t matter anymore to Christ because of the mercy and forgiveness He gave her at the moment she committed her life to Christ, it certainly didn’t matter to the young man, who boldly challenged the gossip and attitude that Satan wanted to use to split the church.