“We can never work with a lie but we can always work with the truth”
That’s something my Dad used to tell me when I was younger. This old sage wisdom generally surfaced from its heart dwelling cavern any time the temptation to lie to myself, or others, would come up.
Like any kid that age, the temptation to dust over the truth of a situation, especially when I was in the wrong, was a periodic thorn that presented itself as a means to avoid potential hurt. It offered the chance of postponing consequences with the hope that those consequences never appeared in the first place. Something so small as a lie could, at the moment, offer so much freedom.
At least that’s what I was supposed to think.
For me, that line of thinking didn’t last very long. When it did come up I would immediately remember what my Dad had told me, “We can always work with the truth.” I knew that meant I wasn’t going to get around the consequences of my actions but I also knew my Dad would do everything possible to help me through those consequences. Even if that meant bearing them with me.
So, I really didn’t lie as a kid. I know, you don’t believe me but it’s the truth.
Many, many times I ratted on myself, even when it was hard. Many of those times I still had to go through my punishment like being grounded or doing extra chores but even through all that I knew with the truth I had a doorway but lying to myself and others only built a prison that eventually I would find myself lost in.
When it comes to finding our way back to the church it’s important we don’t unintentionally lie to ourselves about what that will require. It will be tough, frustrating, rewarding, challenging, and life-changing all at the same time. The beauty and the brokenness work together to reveal truth and truth is God’s playing field… He can always work with it and redeem the brokenness latched onto the back of it to make something new and ordered out of what appears to be chaos.
Here are a few things to remember on how to be a Christian returning to the church:
1. Don’t Expect It To All Change.
This is a tough one to stomach but the reality is the organized church is a broken system full of a bunch of broken people who are deeply loved by God; just as He loves those outside this organization. We mess up and screw up all manner of things. The church can be incredibly loving one minute and then incredibly selfish the next. But grace and love, through Christ, is what sustains it. The point is don’t expect all the brokenness to be gone. It will still be there but if you are able to look through it, you will see a whole lot of beautiful things there as well. Make it a point to see both. Yes, the brokenness and the beauty. Together that is the story of the church and when you see the church for its beauty and brokenness you see the unwavering commitment our Father gives us to redeem it.
2. Be Intentional In Relationships.
Put this on a Post-it note and remember it. We have to be intentional in our relationships. That means we can not just show up to a service and expect everyone else to do the heavy lifting of relationship building. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time where when we first return it’s almost likened to a patient going to the hospital. We need people to be Jesus to us and help us to connect back to the body but we can’t stop there. We have to be intentional about healing so we can be Jesus to others around us in the same position we were in. That means more than shaking hands during “that time” of service. It doesn’t mean we need to be best friends with everyone in the congregation but it does challenge us that we should at least know those sitting around us. Focus on loving a few people really well and see how God works through that.
3. Stock Up On Grace and Give It Away.
Returning to the church, after being gone for a while can be like going to a new school as a kid. It’s school and you are familiar with that but it can have a feeling of being completely different as well. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and love people. Don’t expect you will never get hurt, because after enough time it will happen. Do be willing to give grace and not give up. Loving people is hard. If we are really honest with ourselves we might even see that we ourselves are hard to love at times. The thing is we all need grace. So don’t just expect to receive grace… Expect to give it as well. This is the way of Christ and it is beautiful because it redeems brokenness by using broken people who are willing to accept they are not perfect but by acting in the love and grace of Christ they are being made into something new.
3.5 Keep Being Intentional.
I know, this one sounds like a re-hash of step 2 but I feel like it’s worth mentioning again. It is so important that we are intentional in loving people right where we are. It is difficult but rewarding. We can’t allow ourselves to adopt a mindset that is passive to the work of Christ. It’s not someone else’s job to be the love of Christ to others… It’s our job. If we claim the service of Christ follower then we accept that belief requires us to do as He did. Our job is not to celebrate Christ simply by warming cushions, singing loudly and listening to a good sermon.
Our job is to be the hands and feet of Christ to one another and a broken world of people around us. It’s to take the good news of the Gospel to the ends of the earth and to share the love it contains. That means we must be willing to take an active, intentional part in the progression of the gospel being shared to those around us. It’s not about large numbers or big tasks, it’s about being a good steward of what we have been given. It’s loving the people around us very well and being intentional in showing that same love in the opportunities gives to us when they pop up.
The point is for us to be aware and actively seeking the opportunities to be Christ to those around us. There is much joy in this way of living, as difficult as it might be at times. However, if you really desire to find Christ He will be found in the small acts of selfless grace-filled love given to people who need it most.