One of my good friends emailed me an advertisement for a new book called UnChristian: What a New Generation Thinks About Jesus. The author of the book, David Kinnaman has interviewed 867 young people and reported responses from 440 non-Christians and 305 active churchgoers. The summary conclusion is that the vast majority of non-Christians, 91 percent, said that the church has an anti-gay image, 87 percent said that the church is judgmental and 85 percent said that it is hypocritical. On the same issues for Christians the numbers are 80, 52 and 47 percent.
There is no question that these numbers are devastating analyses of the perception of the church. However, one also has to know that the people who David Kinnaman has been associating with for a while have been declaring that the church has been sliding in importance for the past 10 years. Nothing new! In fact, Kinnaman no longer wants to identify himself as Christian; he simply wants to be known as a committed follower of Jesus. He also writes that many people in the media do not want to be identified with the church, but they want to be followers of Jesus.
It is true that right now the only group in the West that stands against homosexuality advocated as normal is the church. There have been court cases in Canada and in Sweden in which church pastors have been accused of propagating hate speech if they preached from texts in Scripture that address homosexuality. Also, about 10 years ago the book Homosexuality and Christian Community was edited by Professor Choon Leong Seow in which the majority of professors from Princeton Theological Seminary defended homosexual behavior. One of the professors stated that the issue would be much easier if we could remove those verses from Scripture. This accounts for the logic of a respected colleague of mine who once said about the Bible and homosexuality, "I don't see why we can't confess that the Book was wrong on this one." We cannot do that because the New Testament has functioned this way until 1950 when in the second part of the 20th century there was a new interpretation imposed on this issue.
Jesus loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy (Eph. 5:25-26). Jesus is aware of all the foibles, the warts, the wrinkles and all the things that the church has done negatively for the past 20 centuries. Yet, Jesus Christ still loves the church. The church is the bride of Christ which he plans to present in all her splendor for the universe to see.
That does not excuse the fact that judgmentalism and hypocrisy is rampant in the church. The concept of judging is one of the difficult concepts in the Scriptures. There are verses in the Scriptures when we are told that we should judge and there are an equal number where we are told not to judge. For example, when I sit on an ordination council to determine is one is fit to become a minister or not, I pass judgment and I pray that it will be a correct judgment. There have been times in which I cast my vote so the candidate will proceed with the ordination and then there have been times in which I cast a vote for a delay or a re-write of the ordination paper. Jesus says that he will not judge, but his word will judge. In the day of judgment the world will be judged by the word that was spoken by Jesus. Paul writes to the Corinthians asking them if there is no wise person among them to judge the matter that they have taken before the pagan courts.
Hypocrisy has been aplenty in the evangelical and catholic churches where the discrepancy between what we preached and practice has been gargantuan. Nevertheless, Jesus did not give up on the church and neither should we. Jesus loves the church and we should sing with the author of the song, "I Love Thy Church, O Lord."