by May 30, 2023

Estimated reading time: 5 Minutes.

  1. The church is made up of imperfect people.

You don’t have to go far to meet someone who has been hurt by the church. “In fact, a Barna study among unchurched adults shows that nearly four in ten unchurched Americans (37%) said they avoid churches because of negative past experiences in churches or with church people.” (“Millions of unchurched adults are Christians Hurt by churches but can be healed,” The Barna Group, April 12, 2010, From sexual abuse cover-ups to embezzled funds, the church is not without its brokenness and sin. This makes sense: the church, after all, is full of imperfect people with the ability to sin. As we exercise our free will, we also exercise our ability to inflict harm. But that sin actually hurts others. Jesus reserved some of his harshest criticisms of the religious leaders of his day, his words still ring true for the modern Christian.

Matthew 23 begins with Jesus speaking to the masses: his disciples and the crowd (v. 1). He encourages them to do what the religious leaders say, not what they do (v. 3). The scribes were the religious teachers of the time, and the Pharisees were a sect of Judaism, what we might call a denomination.

  1. People who live a life of humility and service are the ones who deserve to be exalted (vv. 10-12)

(For the purpose of this blog, we lump both groups together as religious leaders.) Jesus says that many of these leaders were hypocrites. They were more interested in appearing holy and important than in living a life of service (vv. 5-7). Jesus tells his listeners that we are all equal and that the only true teacher is the Messiah, the Christ (vv. 8–10). People who live a life of humility and service are the ones who deserve to be exalted (vv. 10-12). Then, Jesus directs the conversation towards the scribes and Pharisees and delivers seven “woes”. In doing so, Jesus acts as a just judge and delivers the just indictment of the leaders’ hypocrisy. First, he accuses them of preventing others from entering the kingdom of God (v. 13). Second, they worked hard to convert someone and then subjected them to a corrupt theology that placed the authority of the rabbis over Scripture (v. 15). In the third woe (vv. 16-22), “the Pharisees and teachers of the law encouraged evasive oaths that amounted to lies. Jesus’ point was that people should tell the truth. Jesus condemned his critics for mishandling the Scriptures they claimed to defend and expound.”

  1. Despite our shortcomings, God has high expectations of us.

As evidenced in this passage, the letters to the churches in Revelation 2–3, the teachings of Galatians (legalism), Colossians (heresy), 2 Timothy (leadership transition tensions), Philippians (conflict and selfish ambition), and From 1 and 2 Corinthians (pride and arrogance), we know that God has high expectations of the church. It is also obvious that church dysfunction is not a new problem. Seems like we’ve always been a bit shabby! The only way to overcome sin in our own lives and in the church as a whole is through a process of confession, repentance, forgiveness, and restoration found through Jesus. Pretending we don’t need help prevents us from finding healing and wholeness in Jesus. It prevents the church from inviting Jesus to make it more like his image. We must face the inadequacies of the church with the hope that Jesus is the path to holiness. We do this individually and corporately.

It is good to remember that the church is not all bad. Greg Boyd writes: “Christianity is not a religion or an institution of any kind; it’s a relationship. Within the religion of Christianity there are, and always have been, genuine Christians, people who have a saving and life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ. And this fact explains the tremendous good that Christianity has brought to the world (despite the evils).”

  1. God uses imperfect people for his purposes

The church is people, not a building or a denomination, and through its people God has moved mightily in the modern world. Check out an online list of Christian contributions to society, such as this one (note that the list is quite reliant on Wikipedia, which isn’t the best source, but Wikipedia can point you to additional substantial sources). Consider Christians like lawyer Bryan Stevenson (author of Just Mercy), whose work with inequalities targeting people on death row and in the criminal justice system might seem like the definition of hopelessness; however, Stevenson continues to have faith and continues as a Micah. 6:8 Christian (see Dominique DuBois Gilliard, “Bryan Stevenson Wants to Free People from the Lie Their Life Doesn’t Matter,” Christianity Today, Jan. 10, 2020. Also think of famous Christians like Fred Rogers, who helped an entire generation of children to learn to deal with their emotions through Rogers’ Neighborhood.And consider that organizations like the YMCA, Salvation Army, World Vision, Habitat for Humanity, Red Cross, Save the Children, Amnesty International, Alcoholics Anonymous and many More have Christian roots. Consider also the Christian impact on modern science. And explore the biographies of these famous Christians, many of whom made lasting contributions to modern thought, the work of mercy, science, and the arts.

So do not disqualify yourself, do not excuse your impossibilities, since God uses ordinary people but who dare to believe Him for wonderful things, I encourage you to fully trust in that wonderful grace of God that it enables you to be used by God and in that power that his Holy Spirit gives you that gives you the strength to do his will. Go ahead in everything, God bless you.

Pastor Guillermo Ayala.

Matthew 23:1-36


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share This