Selfishness, hypocrisy, and other “people problems” in church can be discouraging. But selfishness and hypocrisy shouldn’t drive us away from church involvement. Rather, it should make us aware of how much we all need it!
As children, we grow up in a world governed by adult authority figures who appear all-knowing, just, and wise. But as we approach adulthood, we learn how flawed and imperfect adult authority is. This awareness creates disillusionment, some of it painful. Disillusionment often turns into rebellion. As teenagers, most of us rebel to one degree or another against adults we perceive as arbitrary and unloving.
If we are fortunate enough to have loving parents, we are encouraged to “work through” our rebellion and anger. As we gradually mature into adulthood, we become aware of our own imperfections and conflicting ideals. This awareness of our own imperfection usually has the effect of humbling us, making us more realistic, and changing our rebellion into understanding and forgiveness.
Organizations, whether secular or religious, are made up of imperfect people. As adults we sometimes continue to expect perfection from organizations long after we have stopped expecting it from other individuals or ourselves. But just as teenagers grow into adults,Christians mature in their relationship with Christ. As we mature, we begin to discover how much we owe to God’s grace and how little we earn through our own efforts. This makes it easier to see how God is able to use His church, which, like us, can serve as an instrument of divine grace in spite of imperfection and sin.
Sinful individuals or a sinful church can’t produce lasting effects for the kingdom of God, but the power of God’s Spirit working through them can! ( 2 Corinthians 4:7 ). As Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” ( Mark 2:15-17 ). If we were all perfect we wouldn’t need the church. It is our imperfection that calls for the purifying process of membership in the body of Christ. Our mission is to love each other ( 1 Peter 4:8 ) in such a way that we gain the spiritual strength that can only be developed in union with other believers ( Ephesians 4:14-16 ).
We shouldn’t overlook the hypocrisy and problems that exist in the church. We need to do what we can to confront and deal with them in loving ways. The apostle Paul was probably as aware of hypocrisy and imperfection within the church as anyone who ever lived, yet he wrote:
Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load (Galatians 6:2-5).