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Which Church Would Jesus Belong To?

There are so many different denominations and so many different churches, I often wonder which church Jesus would belong to if he were to return incognito. It is written that speculation is fruitless unless we can learn something from it, so this week, let's speculate.

Before we name your church (or mine) specifically, let's decide what Jesus would be looking for in a church and what he'd be looking out for. Jesus spent a good part of his ministry speaking out against those who were self-righteous, especially the religious leaders who were sanctimonious, so I guess the first thing Jesus might look out for is this particular sin. Self-righteousness takes on many forms and any "ism" is an indication of a holier-than-thou attitude. Racism gets lots of play in the media, as does sexism. But there are lots of other ism's many churches are guilty of (though there are churches guilty of racism and sexism too). Classism is a classic. For instance, if one cannot afford to dress like the average person in the congregation, an insidious form of classism is pervasive. I'm sure some are thinking, "We welcome everyone, no matter how they're dressed." Though this sounds good, try going to any function terribly underdressed and see how uncomfortable you are--your "would-be" visitor feels the same.

There are lots of other ism's practiced in our society, and in our churches. I think it's a safe bet Jesus wouldn't belong to a church that practiced ism's. But Jesus also wouldn't belong to a church where the clergy looked down their noses on the parishioners.

It's unpopular to preach about sin anymore, and part of the unpopularity has come about because of the ministers who have shared with us their particular view of sin.

Many preachers seem to delight in shaking their finger, shouting, and belittling those of us who are sinners (me included). I'm sure God isn't pleased with my sins, but on the other hand, God isn't screaming at me to do right. Instead God weeps like a heart-broken parent and offers me support so I can work through my faults. And if God doesn't look down God's nose at me, why should we think ministers can. What else would Jesus be looking for? I think Jesus would look for a place where people's hurts are cared for. Jesus' ministry to those in his days on earth was one of touching, healing, and caring. Jesus spent a great deal of time touching the untouchable (today I think of HIV-positive folk, the homeless, the mentally ill, and a host of other untouchables in our society). I think Jesus would look for a church that did just that--and didn't do ministry by throwing money at someone else to their ministry for them.

And finally, I think he would check to see if a church were busy doing the work of God, that is, the work of love. Jesus taught there were two great commandments, loving God and loving neighbors.

The way people love God is by loving their neighbors well. Loving God is seen best in our relationships with others, and a church that's primarily busy reaching the needs of those outside their own walls are doing the work of God.

And that's why I really don't think Jesus would belong to your church or min (or anyone's). Jesus attended the church (the synagogue) in whatever village, town, or city he happened to be visiting on the Sabbath.

He didn't do ministry from within the church, choosing instead to work directly with those whom the religious organizations shunned.

Today I am sure we would find Jesus at the night clubs and standing around burning barrels talking with those trying to stay warm. We'd see him with the hungry sharing a half-eaten tuna salad sandwich he'd found. And we'd find him holding the hands of those dying with AIDS. On any given Sunday morning we might find Jesus at any of these places. Perhaps you have seen him there: "For whatsoever you do for the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you have done for me" (Matthew 25.40).

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