“Then, with the crowds listening, he turned to his disciples and said, “Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets. Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public.””
Luke 20:45-47 NLT
It’s easy to feel guilty by the way we live out our Christian faith; it’s also easy to become convinced that we are real assets to God’s kingdom process. My own capacity to feel self-important and ‘special’ simply because of the path I cut into church leadership in my younger days, shocks me. Certainly I performed well and enjoyed the encouragement and affirmation of both peers and those to whom I ministered. Yet, I failed to find the inner resource I needed when tragedy struck.
Church, while essential in expressing God’s love throughout the world and encouraging a loving community, quickly becomes a honeypot for hubris. There’s a tremendous responsibility that God lays upon the Church to be the bearer of good news in a troubled and troubling world.
Jesus identifies these as problems for the Jewish leaders of the Temple system in Jerusalem. There was a hunger for an authentic encounter with God; the queues lining up to get baptised by John indicate this. At the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, there were a number of experiments taking place as the Jews explored how they might deepen their faithful following of God. Church is also meant to offer an experimental model in which we practise loving God, one another and the stranger. It offers hospitality ahead of judgement. It converses with rather than criticises culture, revealing through its shared life the realisation of the values it holds by revelation of the Holy Spirit. The characteristic of the true Church is that it is the willing servant of all. It is the embodiment of Jesus and appropriately judged as such.
How can you be a part of helping your church love God wholeheartedly?
Lord, may your Church, wherever it is found, be full of your humility, hospitality and love.