“And this is why so many people reject the church…”
How often have you read this in the last year? In the last month? In the last week?
It’s a premise for a wide variety of ideas about the Church, a repeated refrain that has almost become a cliché. It goes something like this. The church has a bad public image because it is too narrow-minded, too political, too legalistic, too patriarchal, and too a lot of bad things. And there seems to be research to bolster these arguments.
It seems every day, some organization is releasing a poll that shows the Church is out of touch and must change. It can be dizzying because if you actually followed every new conflicting prescription, you’d be spinning in circles. Sometimes, I imagine how the Apostles managed without all that research to help them out.
Now, don’t get me wrong. We need to be wary of our standing before people (Colossians 4:5), we must adorn the gospel well (Titus 2:10; 1Peter 3:3-4), we must strive, as Paul to be “all things to all men.” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (Though, let’s be honest, this has been stretched to defend some pretty crazy church ideas.) It’s important that we conduct ourselves in a way that demonstrates the attractiveness of our faith.
However, I think the Church is a little obsessed with its image. I think it’s convenient for us to beat up on ourselves. It’s fashionable to put out a passive-aggressive tweet or Facebook post that hates on some hypocrisy in the larger Church.
The truth is that while the church is often clumsy, sinful, and sometimes irrelevant, we are God’s called-out body. We are His Bride. Furthermore, we have to reconcile ourselves to the idea that the radical discipleship Jesus calls us to is against the ethos of the world.
In fact, we are told many, many times in the New Testament that if we follow Jesus, we will not be liked by the world.
Consider these words spoken by Jesus himself:
“And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Matthew 10:22 (ESV)