Mark Twain once said, "The church is a place where a nice, respectable person stands in front of other nice, respectable people and urges them to be nicer and more respectable."
Is that really all there is? Is that really why we exist? Surely not!
If anyone has ever gotten or given that vibe they were surely off course. That is not at all what the characters in Scripture experienced. Let me just mention a few more notable ones:
- Abraham – A liar and a doubter who God made into the Father of trusting faith.
- Moses – A murderer, questioner and complainer that grew so intimate with God that he spoke with Him "face to face, as one speaks with a friend."
- David – An adulterer and murderer who became a “man after God’s own heart.”
- Peter – An impulsive, speaking-before-thinking man who denied knowing Jesus three times when it counted. He became one of the primary leaders of Christianity.
- Paul – A man dedicated to persecuting God’s people, including through imprisonment and murder, who was transformed into being a critical missionary and apostle for Christ.
These people were anything but respectable. In fact they had qualities we would be more against than for. But one critical thing happened. They met God and were transformed as a result. In fact, the very trajectory of their life changed dramatically. They were not the same people anymore. Their stories can and should inspire us. They should also remind us that God works with people of the worst kind. No one is too far gone or too out of His reach.
Just being nice and respectable is not the life that the Bible calls us to. Christians aren’t just nice and respectable, but people who are transformed and being transformed by Jesus. They recognize and admit the sin in their life, inviting God to graciously forgive and change them. They open their lives up to Jesus living in and through them, making Him the absolute Leader or Lord of their life. They submit everything to the leadership of the Spirit and pattern everything after the life creed that Jesus taught:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:37-40
That is way beyond simply being nice and respectable isn’t it? That is a life centered on doing the things that Jesus did and saying the things that Jesus said.
So who is right - Mark Twain or Jesus?
What if your life was patterned after the Jesus Creed instead of Mark Twain’s idea of church being about and for nice and respectable people? If that were the case, how would our church look different or our communities or beyond?