We watched a movie last night — one we would not have normally watched. It was done by a secular movie company about a Christian family. At first, it was interesting to see how the church was portrayed….to get a glimpse of “religion” through their worldview.
But the longer I think about it, the more I realize that we, as Christians, have failed to accurately portray the true church of Christ to the world. What the producers of the film had created was what they thought the church was….and what they have seen in the church.
I realized this when the first scene came on and it was a worship service in the church — complete with a popular contemporary Christian band leading the worship. There is nothing in particular wrong this band, and many of you would probably recognize the name. It was the way the whole service looked, the atmosphere of it all. People were jumping, and clapping, and shouting……as if they were at a concert. When the pastor got up to “preach” he put a football helmet on his head, opened an umbrella, and talked about insurance policies (yes, seriously!). He then got “serious” and talked about how all these things would protect you, but faith was the only real thing to get you through a trial. The only good thing I could see in the congregation they portrayed was that all the little children were in the sanctuary and not off in this class or that class. And all the families sat together.
While I did have issues with the “service” I could easily see how the producers could portray it that way. It was a typical scene from any mainstream, Christian church (minus the children sitting there…but I digress). No, the part that stood out most to me was a little later in the movie. One of the daughters — the ten year old — in the family was diagnosed with paralysis of the digestion tract. She was, in essence, dying. The family lived in Texas — the best doctors were in Boston, and the mother and daughter flew there while the father stayed home with the other two children (ages 13 and 6), continued working his job, continued being a father, and tried to balance everything his wife normally would have done while coping with the emotions in his own life and the lives of his two daughters. They were using a doctor out of their insurance network, flying back and forth between Texas and Boston every six weeks, and were running out of funds. At this point you may be wondering why all this was bothersome to me….. because I kept asking myself: “Where was the church?!?” The congregation showed up at the initial diagnoses in the hospital, and after that all the support they got was a few women asking what sin they had done in their family that the daughter was still sick and God refused to heal her.
Is this really what we have managed to portray to the world? That we are a bunch of snobs, who say we will pray for healing and when that doesn’t happen we blame the family and go our own way? That saddens me greatly! We have failed the Lord who desires us to minister to others — to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice. We have failed to let His light so shine before men that they can glorify our Father who is in heaven. We have failed to show other people the love He has so graciously shown to us. The families in that church should have been there, surrounding the family. The father should have come home to meals cooked, to his home cleaned, to his children well cared for. The children never should have been neglected, left at home, while the father was away, working to earn money to feed his family and to pay the medical expenses.
Is this an unrealistic expectation? Absolutely not! My family and I have been on the receiving end of this outpouring of love many times. And, quite frankly, without the support from our church I don’t know how we would have gotten through it. Yes, we can always lean on God alone, but He has given us physical comfort in leaning on a believers shoulder and mingling our tears with theirs. We can read His Word without a physical friend there — but to hear a friend quoting Scripture, encouraging us to continue on, is an immense comfort.
The stress of this family could have easily been relieved. The stress of carrying on with normal duties could have have been taken on by other shoulders. The stress of providing financially for his family could have been relieved…..if the church had done its duty. Allowed the love of God they experienced to flow from them to this family.
When my mother was taken by ambulance to the hospital several years ago, there were eight of us children left at home. And a sweet family — who also had eight children of their own — took us all in their home and their hearts for the week following, so Dad could focus on Mom. We had meals coming to us for months after that, we had our needs financially taken care of, we had needs we didn’t even know we had all cared for by kind friends, who allowed the Lord to use them. We had so many friends who left their jobs and came to the hospital during the hours long surgery, that hospital staff opened another waiting room. We had so many visitors that the staff waived the “number of visitors allowed at once” rule…..so many people allowed the love of Christ to flow through them that others in the waiting room knew they were followers of the Lord. People told other people, and there were nurses and doctors coming from different floors to minister to Mom and Dad, to pray with them, to encourage them. Neighbors left packages on the fence of our home, people who drove by our home everyday stopped to see what was going on, and several asked how they could pray.
I know it can be hard — how many, many times I have turned away from someone who needed help because it was awkward, I didn’t know what to say, I would make a fool of myself? How many times have I not prayed with them, given them a hug? And how many times have I been blessed by someone who didn’t know what to say, who didn’t understand anything, by them simply hugging me and praying for me? Holding me while I cried, and seeing that they, too, are hurting and crying for me? Thankfully recieved meals prepared by their hands, knowing that was less thing we had to do to get through the day?
This is the picture we should show to the world — this picture of compassion, this picture of love and care and kindness and sympathy. This picture of Christian charity. We should do better than this. The world shouldn’t see us — shouldn’t be able to betray us, the church — as it did in the movie. We should be a living, breathing disciple of the Christ who came to die for us. Should face the world with the same kindness and compassion that were shown to us on the cross. We should live so that others can look at us and wonder what makes us different form the world.
Is this too much to expect from the church? Is this too much to ask? That as brothers and sisters in the Lord we should treat each other as siblings would, sharing the burden, praying for each other, weeping with each other, and rejoicing with each other?
Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.
We share each others woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.
When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.