The sad truth about these false prophets is that they're playing on our distorted understanding of God's love. And that, more than any other message, ought to be a wake-up call for the church.
How does a message where God doesn't love His church become so popular in the first place? When we already believe that God doesn't love us...or struggle to believe that He does.
Honestly, one of the hardest truths about the Christian life is the depth of God's love for us. We know our sins, our failures, our trials, our habits, our hang-ups, our patterns, our everything, and we know how hard it must be to love someone like us. We know what an incredible disappointment we are if we hold ourselves up to some moral/ethical/spiritual standard that sounds "Christian." Of course God doesn't love us.
And that's what these pastors are playing on - they are creating these moral/ethical/spiritual standards for the church and encouraging us to hold ourselves up to them so that we can fail and then they can tell us that the church is broken and of course God doesn't love it (or us) because that's the easy message to preach. From there, it's easy to deconstruct the church, shift the emphasis from God's love for us to our love for one another, preach a message that looks a lot like the world's definition of loving each other (tolerance, affirmation, buzzwords like "social justice" or whatever else is going on right now), and all of a sudden, we've totally changed the nature of the church from a people loved by God, called, and sent into the world to a people trying to love God by loving others in some way that He will supposedly approve.
As it plays out, it's a subtle, but deadly, difference. Yet, so palatable to the masses.
What we need are not activist pastors reminding us that we don't measure up to some moral/ethical/spiritual standard that Jesus never created for us, but rather, we need pastors who hold us in the shadow of the Cross and remind us of the incredible love that God poured out for us right there.
We need pastors who push us to understand who we are not as lovers of God, but as beloved by God. We need pastors who put the burden of being loved on our shoulders, not the burden of loving. We need pastors who are constantly reminding us of the grace that closes the distance we so easily create in our minds between us and God. God already saw that distance, felt the pain of the separation, and solved that problem. That's the Gospel, and that's the Gospel that we need preached.
It's not easy. We would much rather love than be loved, much rather serve than be served. We would much rather tell the world everything we know about God than show them one thing because the truth is, most of us struggle with even that one thing. Most of us know a thousand things about God, but struggle to live a life that reflects that even one of them might be actually true. And these activist pastors jump all over that and tell us we're right - God is disappointed in us and really wants us to be doing so much better.
And now, we're back at a faith by works and not by grace, which the Bible itself speaks out against at every turn.
I really do think the key for us for reclaiming the church and God's love for her and God's design for her and God's plan - and yes, this really is it - is to start by becoming a people who are better at being loved by God. All of the other stuff, all the things we think we're supposed to do and to be and to create or whatever burden it is we're putting on ourselves, will flow naturally out of our being loved by Him once we get that right.
So stop paying attention to these guys who have nothing good to say about the church. They don't know what they're talking about.
For God so loves the church. And He said so quite clearly.
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