God’s Patience is for Everyone!

I was reading Matthew 11:20-24 — a passage that seems to be about God losing His patience. Right there in verse 20 it seems that Jesus is losing patience with several communities: “Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent.”

This is some uncomfortable stuff.  After all, isn’t this kind of negativity that cause people to flee Old Testament scriptures?  This is the New Testament, we’re supposed to be through with all the smiting and destruction, right?

Fire and brimstone

Image by Nick Halliwell — used by permission via creative commons license

Yet Jesus has some really strong words.  He tells the people of Chorazin “it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.” (Matthew 11:22b NIV)  And in case that is too vague Jesus tells the people of Capernaum ” you will go down to Hades.” (Mathew 11:23b)

This is one of those passages that you wouldn’t include in a “seeker-sensitive” selection.  It’s a little uncomfortable to start off with the judgment of God in an era where we believe anything is okay, and “after all, God wants us happy” is a preamble to doing things we know are against God’s will — or at least we should know.

Despite the harsh tone, reading this last week I saw this passage for the first time as a real passage of love, compassion, and patience.  Wait, what?  Yes, I said it, this bears witness to a loving and patient God.  God loved the people of Chorazin and Capernaum and was patient with them.  In verse 20 we were told that these towns Jesus was denouncing were ones “in which most of his miracles had been performed.”  Jesus worked very hard to change their hearts.  But they didn’t change.

God loves everyone.  Every One.  We are all sinners, and we all fall short.  This passage (or any passage) should NOT be used as a battering ram against people or lifestyles we disagree with.  Rather we should use this ourselves as a reminder that God is patient with us, but he requires we meet him part-way.  We cannot expect to be able to keep one foot in church and the other foot in sinful habits and inherit the kingdom of God.  We must accept the grace that we are given, and in that grace find forgiveness for those shortcomings that we repent.

I believe another lesson buried in this brief passage is that God expects more from those of us who have had opportunities to learn God’s teachings.  Those of us who call ourselves “Christian” are expected to seek God’s will in our lives, and while God will patiently love us when we stumble, we ultimately are charged with allowing our lives to be changed by God and submitting our lives to Christ.  It’s a matter of attitude.

What are your thoughts on this passage?  I want to know what this passage means to you.

Why Go To Church?

http://bible.com/111/col.3.16.niv Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

“Why go to church?” some ask, pointing out that God is everywhere,  and our worship should go with us wherever we may be.   This is especially common among millennials who don’t  place the same importance on worship in community as the older generation.

I understand why the millenials come to this conclusion.  They grew up seeing the older generation placing so much importance on church buildings and religious programming while neglecting the mandate to take the love of Christ into the world around them.

Many churches get into heated arguments and put so much passion into what color the carpets are in the sanctuary, or what type of pavers to use in the walkway in front of the church all while shirking their responsibility to take the message of love into the world. Some of these same churches want pastors to lead them into the next new building campaign rather than leading them out into the streets with arms reaching out to the very people that need the message of Christ the most.

So I can understand why some of the younger generation have come to such a conclusion. Many of these younger people have had very moving experiences — life changing experiences where perhaps they truly felt the presence of God in a very strong way for the first time of their lives in places that did not look like church sanctuaries.  These places may have been in an arena during a concert, or it may have been in an old building run by campus ministry. And so with these experiences that differ from that of their elders,  it’s no wonder that they see things differently.

Paul’s epistle to the church in Colossae was not a letter to teach the church to choose red or burgundy carpet in case Timothy got clumsy with the elements during communion.  And it wasn’t about putting up “no skateboarding” signs to keep long haired kids with baggie pants at a safe distance.  It was about community.

We as Christians have a responsibility to be in community with one another.  To pray for and with others.  To teach others, and to learn from others. And yes, to admonish each other and to be in accountability to others.

It is for this sense of community, this powerful witness of other Christ followers that we go to church.  And it us so we can be there for our brothers and sisters that we go to church.

There was a time in my life when I don’t know I could have made it without the help from community.  Some of you may not even realize what others are going through, yet can be a comfort to them just being in their presence.  Maybe your “joyful noise” today may give them comfort, helping them find their voice to sing praises beside you.   And one day they will return that favor.

Now I’d better get ready for church.  Will I see you there?