We've recently been studying the passage from the Bible out of Matthew Chapter 8:1-4where the leper approaches Jesus in the midst of crowd, falls down to his knees and says, "Lord if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean."
Now, the similarities between this leper and us today are striking and numerous, but the one that jumped out to me the most, the one that I've seen countless times in the last 14 or so years of pastoring is how the leper experienced banishment from the community. Having leprosy in Biblical times was more than a physical punishment, it also came with a tremendous amount of social punishment. You were literally kicked out of town. You were sent packing to anywhere but around people. You see, leprosy was contagious and the last thing anyone wanted was to be around a leper. Eventually, entire communities of lepers were formed on the outskirts of the community. It's this fact that made the leper of Matthew chapter 8 so bold, not only in his request, but also the manner in which he did it.
Of course there are still communities of well meaning believers that banish good people at the first sign of sin in their lives, but the vast majority of churches have learned to embrace people and meet them where they are at in their spiritual journey. After all, none of us have arrived, none of us have achieved the perfection that we project when we walk through the doors of the church. We're all messy people.
Why is it then that so many feel banished from the local community of believers? Why are so many people fearful of walking through the doors of the church? As stated above, there are unfortunately many communities of believers who still treat the struggling Christian as they would one with leprosy. They're fearful that their sin will become, "contagious". They're fearful that the one who struggles will somehow "taint" their holy sanctum.
While this does exist, I wonder how many struggling Christians banish themselves from the community of believers? I mean, isn't it easier to not subject yourself to conviction? Isn't it easier to not sit in a sanctuary or auditorium week after week and feel uncomfortable because what's being talked about isn't how you're living your life? What's happening with struggling Christians and churches across the community is no different than what's happening in our country and world at large: a lack of personal responsibility.
No one wants to take responsibility for their own actions and choices and so it becomes easier to just blame other people. We say things like:
-Everyone looks at me when I walk through the doors.
-I feel uncomfortable when I am at church.
-I feel like I'm being attacked.
-I feel like everyone is judging me.
I am certainly not naive enough to think that this type of poor behavior doesn't exist in many churches, but can it really exist in every church, in every case, with all people. We've become good at hearing about a few actual cases and projecting them on to our situations.
Now before you get really upset and fire off a comment to this post with your "actual real-life" example, remember, this may not be for you. But it is for someone.