Sermon Notes: Judging the Church for Christians’ Bad Behavior

February 3, 2013

The readings at church this morning were Jeremiah 1:4-10, Psalm 71:1-6, 1 Corinthians 13, and Luke 4:21-30.  The sermon focused on 1 Corinthians 13.  A few notes from the sermon:

  • “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”
  • The hardest people to evangelize to are those who have been hurt by the church.  (It also may get harder as time goes on, as the wound festers and becomes even worse in the remembering.)  We have the power, through our actions, to drive people away from the church and God.  That’s terrifying.

  • Some people really have been deeply hurt, but that’s not to say that that’s ever a good reason to walk away from the church and God.  I’ve never heard anyone say, I don’t go to Reds games any more, someone was mean to me there once, or I don’t go to work any more, the people there just aren’t that nice.  No kidding!  They’re people; people aren’t that nice.  Man is fallen.  That doesn’t mean you stop going to work; you continue to go for what you get there.  Similarly, the church has people that aren’t that nice—the church is made up of people—but you continue to go because there you encounter the living God.

Related, from Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis:

I think this is the right moment to consider a question which is often asked:  If Christianity is true why are not all Christians obviously nicer than all non-Christians?  What lies behind that question is partly something very reasonable and partly something that is not reasonable at all.  The reasonable part is this.  If conversion to Christianity makes no improvement in a man’s outward actions—if he continues to be just as snobbish or spiteful or envious or ambitious as he was before—then I think we must suspect that his ‘conversion’ was largely imaginary . . . . When we Christians behave badly, or fail to behave well, we are making Christianity unbelievable to the outside world.  The wartime posters told us that Careless Talk costs Lives.  It is equally true that Careless Lives cost Talk.  Our careless lives set the outer world talking; and we give them grounds for talking in a way that throws doubt on the truth of Christianity itself.

But there is another way of demanding results in which the outer world may be quite illogical.  They may demand not merely that each man’s life should improve if he becomes a Christian: they may also demand before they believe in Christianity that they should see the whole world neatly divided into two camps—Christian and non-Christian—and that all the people in the first camp at any given moment should be obviously nicer than all the people in the second.  This is unreasonable on several grounds.

(Read more in Mere Christianity, “Nice People or New Men”.)

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