As I wonder whether we might have become too comfortable with Jesus in our churches, I can't help but also wonder if Jesus would be comfortable in our churches Himself.
Well, that's a silly question. Jesus is comfortable everywhere He goes. He just...is.
...Not really. It's true that we often see Jesus in places that would make us highly uncomfortable, places like the houses of sinners, like tables with tax collectors, like the Upper Room with a betrayer, like Golgotha. We see His confidence here, His absolute trust in the One who sent Him, but was He comfortable? Was He okay with these places?
What about in the presence of the Pharisees?
There are many times in the Scriptures that we see Jesus expressing His discomfort with one thing or another, with one group of people or another, with one place or another. And these are the places our churches are most likely to mirror.
Take, for example, the home of Simon the sinner. Jesus enters to eat yet another meal with the outcasts, and a woman breaks in and pours oil all over His feet. Everyone else is astonished that the woman would do such a thing, but Jesus simply turns to Simon and says, "But you did not even offer me oil for my head," which was a custom of a good host in those days. Simon, you see, was more interested in what it meant to have Jesus in his house than what it might mean to honor Him while He was there.
Is that our church? Are we more interested in the status symbol it is to be a church at all, to claim to have Jesus in our midst, that we don't do even the most basic things to honor Him while He is with us? Well? Is Jesus honored in your church or is He just in attendance?
Or take, for example, any one of the numerous encounters that Jesus had with the Pharisees. These men, these so-called holy men, who claimed to have such an incredible knowledge of the Scriptures, who claimed to be keepers of the stories of Israel, were always out to trap Jesus, to catch Him in His fallen shorts, to snare Him in their own web of understanding. And Jesus, in turn, rebukes them. A lot. He calls them broods of vipers. He issues warnings about their yeast. He tears them up at every turn and turns the people against them.
Is that our church? Are we just trying to set Jesus up? To prove that He is one thing or another? To prove that we are the ones who have the real understanding about all these things, including about who Jesus Himself truly is? Are you preaching Jesus in your church or are you trapping Him there?
How about when Jesus was on trial in front of the Sanhedrin, or in front of the Roman authorities? Repeatedly, He is asked to declare Himself. Is He the Son of God? Is that who He is? Who gave Him such authority? Repeatedly, He is asked the questions. And He stands silent; the world condemns Him.
Is that our church? Is Jesus on trial in our sanctuaries? Are we always challenging Him, always asking Him to prove Himself? Asking Him to declare, every week, who He is? As though the rumors of miracles and the testimonies of grace are not enough; we demand that He come out and say it again. And again. And again. Is Jesus welcome in your church or is He on trial there? If He is on trial, how little does it take to condemn Him?
Or how about when Jesus actually enters into one of the temples, when He actually visits one of the religious places. He doesn't do this very often in Scripture, but He does it a few times. Most notably, He does it when He comes to Jerusalem, and He finds it nothing more than "a den of thieves." He's angry, and righteously so, and storms through the temple clearing tables, driving out schemers, casting out scammers, and you can almost feel the angry tears welling up in His eyes at how twisted this temple has become.
Is that our church? Are we place where Jesus is a commodity, where religion is being sold? Have we turned our sanctuaries into dens of thieves, charging people for the grace that God so freely gives? Demanding the highest prices for the privilege of worshiping in our space? Is Jesus the saving grace in your church or is He simply for sale?
So I'll ask again - do you think Jesus is comfortable in your church? Is He?
If Jesus were to walk into our churches today, what would He find? What would He think? If it's far too easy for you to see yourself, to see your church, in some of the above stories, you're doing it wrong. Plain and simple. You're doing it wrong.