Why do we attend the church we do? Are we hearing there the words of God or simply the opinions of a man? The bottom line is where could Jesus comfortably attend services in today's world? How would He react to the words coming from the pulpit at your church?Here in the United States a media storm surrounds Democratic Party candidate Barrack Obama's relationship with his self-described spiritual mentor of twenty years, Pastor Jeremiah Wright. The Chicago-based clergyman's incendiary comments, caught on video, are troubling a wide range of Americans.
Lifted from several sermons, his remarks are laced with rough language condemning America on a variety of issues. He is specifically scathing about the historically oppressive role of the white man, leaving his audience with the question: Are the chickens coming home to roost?
When this fiery pastor's words hit the news they became the hot topic in every quarter, be it television, newspaper editorial pages, talk radio or ordinary Americans chatting around the water cooler at work.
In a major speech Obama tried to distance himself from the comments of this man whom he likened to a crazy uncle while at the same time not distancing himself from this preacher (now retired) from whom he had chosen to learn for decades.
Many in America are now asking how could a man who defines his candidacy on the issue of judgment not have confronted his pastor with the question: What do you mean by what you say?
While the Obama campaign has tried to stop the bleeding and lay the matter to rest with a wide ranging speech on racism in America, there remains a lingering question for each of us, not just for Mr. Obama, to answer. Why do we attend the church we do? Are we hearing there the words of God or simply the opinions of a man?
Perhaps you also have been attending a specific church for years because that's where everyone in your family or neighborhood has always gone or as a means of being socially connected to your community or for your own personal pursuits or you simply like the guy in the pulpit and are willing to allow him to be foot loose and fancy free with the message of the Gospel.
The bottom line is where could Jesus comfortably attend services in today's world? How would He react to the words coming from the pulpit at your church?
Words have meaning! They simply cannot be excused away. Jesus taught that "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:32). He also taught that man should live "by every word of God" (Luke 4:4).
If Jesus were sitting in the pews of the church you attend would He hear the pastor preaching about His birth, life, resurrection and second coming? Or about how His Kingdom is going "to beat swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks" (Isaiah 2:4)? Would Jesus hear the biblical prophecy relating to the brotherhood of man in which the age-old enemies of Israel, Egypt, and Assyria will become one under God's coming literal Kingdom on this earth (Isaiah 19:25)?
Let's go a little deeper. Would He hear that the Ten Commandments should be the moral guide of our lives? Or would He hear them dismissed as not binding on New Covenant Christians? Would Jesus hear any mention of the same day—Saturday—on which He worshipped as the Sabbath? In fact, you probably would not have been able to have attended with Him because His habit was to always show up to worship God on Saturday, not on Sunday.
In the months ahead as this story about the judgment of Obama regarding his pastor continues to resurface—before you get too harsh, even high and mighty, with him—take a good look at yourself. That's always a good start for each of us.
What are you putting up with in your religious environment that doesn't have a biblical leg to stand on? Do you regularly compare your pastor's remarks to the Bible? Have you asked for God's guidance in selecting a church that preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God in its entirety? Perhaps the big talk ahead of you should be preceded by your asking God to guide you in learning how to properly put His word ahead of the word of man.
Then, talk to your pastor. Hold him biblically accountable for what comes out of his mouth.
To properly "test the spirits" of your religious environment, as God's word implores everyone to do (1 John 4:1), you need to know precisely what the Bible teaches about the essential characteristics of the church Jesus would have you attend?