Imagine for a moment that you are in a deep sleep having a dream. In the dream, you are in your church. You are sitting or standing in your usual spot (just guessing that you have a usual spot). You look at the back of the church and you see someone walk in. You can immediately tell that person is a sinner…not just any sinner, but a bad sinner. In your dream, you say to yourself: “What is that person doing in my church? That type of person just does not belong here; they would never fit in.” (Note in the photo, the buck hiding in the trees looking at the other buck who obviously shouldn’t be there.)
Your dream continues as you decide that you need to go back there and explain to this horrible sinner that they have wandered into the wrong church. This really isn’t the church they would like. Perhaps a church in a different part of town would be a better one for them to check out today. As you walk to the back of the church, you are thinking about the best way to convince this sinner to leave – in a very loving way…after all you are a very pious Christian.
It is a long walk, it must be, as your mind has mulled over the many ways to show this sinner to the door. You finally make it to this reprobate and look directly at their face. Your jaw hits the floor as you realize, the person is YOU!! Immediately you wake up.
Now before you get all offended with me that I had you be the one having the dream, please realize that since I am writing this the YOU is ME. If that doesn’t work, then please remember it was only a dream and you have likely had worse ones. Cut back on the ice cream and pizza before bed and it will be okay.
For those of you who didn’t get offended, what was your reaction when you came face to face with yourself? For me, it was a good reminder that indeed “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). It was also a reminder of what God desires of me as I see other people, whether they are visitors at my church or someone I happen to see along my path on any given day.
What came to my mind is the difference between being “religious/pious” or being more like my Lord. I had a dear friend who was not a Christian who volunteered at a prison where I was chaplain. I call him a dear friend because over the years we had many deep talks and grew close. During his monthly visits, at some point, he would find the right moment to say to me: “Powley, wipe that pious look off your face.” We would laugh about it, but it was always a learning moment for me.
So what does the Lord ask of us when dealing with other people? Surely it is not to hit them over the head with the “sin stick” that we could carry in our “religious/pious” way. Rather, it is summed up by this short verse from the Holy Prophet Hosea as God speaks: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice!”
I pray that one day, when I appear before the Judgement Seat of Christ, if I am accused of anything, it will be of having too much mercy. That will take some work for me beginning today.