The apostle Paul dealt with his own problems in the fledgling churches he started throughout Asia Minor, and his list of “jaw-droppers” are no less stunning. The books of 1 and 2 Corinthians outline these difficulties, ranging from backbiting, gossip, and strife to drunkenness, immorality, and even someone sleeping with his father’s wife. Paul is stern yet loving in his approach to those wayward Corinthians, and as I read through the text I wonder what he would have to say about this modern-day “country club” mentality—a problem he no doubt encountered as well. You don’t have to read far to infer his likely response: “God forbid.”

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? (Romans 6:1-2, KJV)

So many people are turned off by church these days, and I can’t help but think it’s because somewhere along the way we stopped representing Christ to the world and adopted a country club mentality instead. We expect everyone to be “like us” before we’ll accept them. At the very least, they need to clean up (physically, emotionally, spiritually) before they walk through the door.

At the same time, I wonder how many people—single or married, young or old, rich or poor—would flock to Christ, that strange itinerant preacher who changed the course of history and whose life divides our very calendar, if only they could encounter Him in the flesh. Words I myself pondered years ago when I finally realized it’s not God that people reject, but the sometimes horrible representation we fallible humans give Him.

But wait, you say. Isn’t that what Christians are supposed to do—in essence, represent Christ to the world? Absolutely. But we will never accomplish that single mission Jesus charged us with if we draw the line on who we will accept—and shut the door in everyone else’s face.

A.J. Kiesling is the author of  Where Have All the Good Men Gone? (Harvest House) and the novel Skizzer (Revell).  A religion writer for Publishers Weekly, she has written more than a dozen books. 

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