Blessing, honor, glory and power belong to the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb forever and always. Revelation 5: 13b
This morning, I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of our American church. Reading through the first five books of Revelation, it seems to me that we are broken. Instead of being ambassadors of God’s love and grace, American Christians are too often emissaries of judgment and condemnation. Being a Christian becomes more about being right (or self-righteous) than about being a servant of Christ.
Part of the problem, I think, is that as American Christians, we lack humility. We’ve taken power on ourselves, rather than giving it to the One to whom it rightly belongs. We call ourselves the standard bearers for morality, proper thinking, correct political beliefs, and accurate ideas for how the universe works. Again, many American Christians think they’re right, and therefore, anyone else is wrong.
Yet, when I read through Jesus’ condemnation of the churches, I can’t help but our churches fall into the category of the condemned. Jesus says to the church in Ephesus, “You have forsaken the love you had at first.” To the Sardinians he says, “…you have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead…I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of God.” To the church in Laodicea he says, “…you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!” To the churches in Pergamum and Thyatira he condemns them for engaging in idolatrous practices and following leaders who have gone astray.
I think many of our churches have forsaken the love we had at first. We follow leaders who are more interested in promoting themselves than God, or follow cultural leaders and celebrities rather than following Jesus. Many who profess to Christianity only practice that faith on Sunday mornings, leaving many works unfinished. Our congregations are lukewarm, and that lukewarm nature breeds irrelevancy.
I think, as Christians, we need to go back to the first. We need to lay aside our political beliefs, our self-righteous practices, and our ambitions for leadership and power. We need to become, once again, Jesus followers. And Jesus’ example was always one of humility and service. Jesus went to the outcasts, the ones the Pharisees held in judgment and condemnation. Jesus told the ones exiled by the church that they were loved, above all others. Jesus didn’t say that if you love me, you’ll vote this way. Rather, he told Peter, if you love me, feed my sheep.
If we want our mainline churches to grow, we need to practice humility. We need to put aside our judgment and go serve others in need. We need to stop placing ourselves on church committees and start placing ourselves in the streets. We need to stop thinking we’re right and start remembering that we, too, are sinners in need of God’s grace, mercy, and redemption.
All honor and glory and wisdom and power and might belong to God forever and always (Revelation 7:12). Let’s leave these things in God’s hands, and focus on loving him, and loving others.
Blessings and Peace,