This past weekend we went camping with our Gateway church family. We were wholly unprepared, grabbing this and that as we walked out the door. Our van has been unusable for the past almost two weeks because of cooling problems, so we were up in the air about camping, until a car became available to us. Long story short, we spent most of our time mooching off of other people’s fires, hot water, & utensils. I did bring my crock-pot, however. I also managed to drive half an hour away to fetch ingredients for a soup, only to forget half of them in a bag left at the store. I didn’t realize this until I arrived back at the camp. So I had a little cry, then drove all the way back to the store to get the items left behind. When I arrived, the lady told me they had just taken my things back to the refrigerated section. This put me back into a foul mood. In fact, I was so annoyed at the whole situation that I grabbed one extra pack of sausages just to see if they would notice. Turns out I could have grabbed ten and she wouldn’t have cared. Nevertheless, I felt pretty guilty about it once I stopped thinking about myself so much. James 5:16 says to confess your sins to each other. Have I hit the backspace button numerous times hoping I could erase the fact that I am guilty of stealing? Why, yes. And yes, I am a sinner saved by grace and sometimes I still act like a little kid who will do whatever it takes to get what seems fair. I slept pretty horribly that night too. Good thing one of the things we grabbed as we walked out the door was an extra piece of foam, or we would have been sleeping on rocks. But, if we’re talking about getting what’s fair… I should have just rolled right over and slept on the rocks IN the rain as punishment for my awful behavior.
Thankfully, that’s not how God works. He disciplines us like a good parent, but He doesn’t hold our sins over our head to see how much guilt we can bear. I was reminded of God’s grace Saturday afternoon as a group of us filed into the woods towards a small stream bed. Our friend wanted to show his faith in Jesus Christ by being baptized publicly. It was a beautiful sight. Baptism will never get you into Heaven. It outwardly symbolizes what’s been done on the inside. Believing in Christ’s death for the forgiveness of our sins. Believing His resurrection from the dead means we will never die but always belong to God’s family.
Somehow having an organic gathering of God’s kids out in the woods felt perfect. Church isn’t just something that happens in a building. It’s not about blue chairs, wooden pews, the color of the carpet or how many guitars, pianos, or drums are playing. It has nothing to do with our hymnbook, songbook, chorus book, or prayer-book. Church isn’t even a building. It’s not about an hour each week to feel good about ourselves and check it off our list or make brownie points with God. Church is His body on earth, doing what His hands did, and what He died in order for us to do. Live. Love. Forgive. Church is a group of living and breathing folks who are following Christ’s example of humility and love. At least that is what it’s supposed to be.
I get very deeply upset when we start making the church more important than Jesus. When we put more effort into what’s inside four walls than what’s outside of them. When we act one way Sunday and a completely different way the other six. When we nitpick about the minors while the majors get shelved out of fear or embarrassment. When we get more concerned about saving someone’s soul than we do about loving them right where they are. I am guilty of this and so much more. My soul is restless to be all that Jesus has been to me.