Discovering Spiritual Truths & Celebrating God's Grace in the Every Day Happenings of Life.
As part of my Little League coaching responsibilities, I have to select All-Stars from each opposing team. Over the past two days I have gotten several emails with team rosters and instructions on how to rate and rank each player. Soon we will have a coach’s meeting where we will officially vote on this summer’s All-Star team. The goal is to pick the cream of the crop—the most skilled and most committed players so that we can field a competitive team that will travel around and play the all-star teams of neighboring townships. Some rankings will be simple; other decisions will be more difficult. But even at the young ages of 9 and 10, these kids will be put under the microscope by a handful of coaches as we search for the best.
Such an evaluative process is one we go through, knowingly or not, throughout our lives. In school, whether it be sports or theater productions, it is only “the best” who make the final team or cast list. Band members are sifted through and evaluated to see who can play 1st chair and who is gently tucked towards the back of the stage. Only “the best” students academically are the ones highlighted in honor roll publications. Colleges pick “the best”’ perspective students. Employers pick “the best” applicant for their job openings. It starts early and continues on throughout our lives. We live in a world where we are constantly judged by our skillset and work production. We are regularly compared to others. Even a great majority of our entertainment is based on whittling down the masses to find the one deemed “the best” by popular vote (i.e. American Idol, America’s Got Talent, or The Bachelor).
This is what makes coming to church so different, so wonderful. Here is a place, where God accepts each of us as we are. Flawed. Imperfect. Areas for improvement. Room to grow. None of these descriptive matter, all are welcome in the house of the Lord! No wonder the psalmist declared, “I rejoiced with those who said to me, let us go to the house of the Lord.” (122:1) In the presence of God, there is no competition. We don’t have to win His favor, seek His approval, or convince Him that we belong. When we walk into the church, it doesn’t matter what our skillset is or what talents we possess. We check our best at the door. It is not that such God-given gifts are never to be celebrated; they just don’t matter here. The Bible tells us that even our best efforts and most righteous deeds will never save us. They are like filthy rags (see Isaiah 64).
When we come to church it is not about who we are or what we do. There is no such thing as spiritual power ranking system. Instead, it is only about what God does for us and to us. After all, when Christians gather we acknowledge that we are all poor, miserable sinners—each in our own unique way. Yet God loves us in spite of ourselves, and we receive nothing but grace upon grace. We are loved. We are forgiven. We are accepted. We are made new. This is how the Lord receives each and every one of us. No exceptions. Quotes abound about how the church is not a museum for the saints or a gathering of the perfect. It is a hospital for the sinners where God brings healing to broken people and gives hope to those who are overwhelmed and disheartened. The church is the family God, all equal and all united, because we are wrapped up in the loving arms of our Heavenly Father. Thanks be to God that He provides a reprieve from the rat-race and pressure of always trying to be the best. He gives us, quite literally, a sanctuary where we can rest and be at peace, knowing that we are accepted just as we are!
“The church is not a place where perfect people gather to say perfect things, or have perfect thoughts, or have perfect feelings. The Church is a place where imperfect people gather to provide encouragement, support, and service to each other as we press on in our journey to return to our Heavenly Father.” (J.B. Worthlin)
Pastor Steve Vera