I See Dead Trees Walking
The other day a friend of mine who is a member of our community was feeling overwhelmed by the incredible weakness and immorality that is displayed in the church... the whole church in general and ours in particular. He came to the rather alarming conclusion that there's no evident difference between believers and non-believers, Christians and non-Christians. We're all the same. Believers and church-goers are no more holy, righteous or good than anyone else, but just as crooked, lustful, adulterous, hateful, angry, greedy and self-centered as everyone else. I agreed, having come to that conclusion decades ago. It's sad to watch someone suddenly realize there's no Santa, and that's what these experiences always feel like to me. It's also called maturity and courage when someone can admit what they see. It reminds me of something the great theologian John Calvin wrote over 400 years ago:
He (the believer) must not expect Heaven on earth or hope to reap the fruit of victory or to live in rest. Here he lives in need, imperfection and trouble, and there is externally no difference between believers and heathen. Yet the life which is promised is real and no shadow. It is in the Christian like the life of trees in winter, hidden, but waiting to show itself in the fulfillment of time. Our life is elsewhere; it is now hidden, but it will be revealed to us at the coming of the Redeemer.This is why I have no patience with pretense or hypocrisy in myself or others. It is living a lie. Recognizing this fact alone is a place of incredible humility, repentance and resurrection. It is a place of death and therefore life. To acknowledge that we, like all others, have been bound in disobedience so that grace might be given to us all is the only appropriate posture.