A Church Travesty
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
For quite some time now, the evidence of sin among members of the church has surfaced. I recall a certain story that a sister shared with me not too long ago in which she was speaking with another person in the congregation. The story that she shared with me brought me great distress because the sin in which she encountered was not one dealing with external circumstances. What I mean is this: The sin she was faced with was one of arrogance and superiority. This is truly the saddest of all the stories I have heard in my time in the church.
One afternoon, one sister was speaking with another sister about the potential outreach ability to the poor in the area. The sister brought this up in casual conversation with the other and hoped to find out how the other felt about such an outreach. The response was one that shocked me. The one with whom the sister was speaking replied, “They may need help, but they should not find it here [in this congregation]. Likely, they will be sticking their fingers in the offering plate and taking of it.” The sister who heard this response was immediately shocked, taken back by the lack of sincerity and apparent evidence of selfish ambition represented by the response.
A Divine Teaching
Friends, might I suggest we heed the warning of Jesus: “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—that he may warn them so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent’ “(Luke 16:19-30, NRSV).
A Quick Expository Look
Notice a few things about this story. (1) Many have referred to this as a parable, but there is no reason that it should be given such a status definitively (2) The dogs’ tongues referenced to Lazarus’ life compared to the tongue which seeks relief in Hades (3) The rich man is 100% conscience and acutely aware of his sin while he was alive on Earth (4) He is aware of his family on Earth still living in sin and wants to have them warned, but he cannot. He is stuck. (5) There was the ability of the rich man to see Paradise, though there was a great divide preventing him from entering.
The rich man, undoubtedly, would have gone back in time to change his lifestyle after being tormented. He would have given anything just to be able to spare his loved ones who he knew were living just as arrogantly as he did. This is a terrifying story of torment, but it is one that we can learn much from. I firmly believe that we will be aware of the life we had while in Paradise or Hades. The rich man thought all was well because he knew Abraham, but the fact was, he did not truly know him because he did not live accordingly. Like the rich man, many will claim to know Jesus; thus, claiming the Christian name. Some will do so because they think it is a simple label fixed to them, and they “go to church.” Others willingly look down on others because of their status in the world.
We cannot call ourselves Christians and think that it is acceptable to overlook the poor, restrict the gospel to the “in” culture (the rich/successful), or to place ourselves above anyone for any reason. This is a fact.
In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, who would you rather be? Honestly? While the rich man’s life was nice, the rich man’s eternity will be tormented. While Lazarus’ life sucked, he will be in Paradise for eternity—until heaven. Look, I am over people thinking they have the right to restrict the gospel or harbor the good news because someone is different than they are. This is the reason the church (universal) is suffering and divided. Arrogance is a plague, an illness, and it needs to be cut out. Please do not be like the rich man. Do not overlook someone because of how “nasty” they look. Jesus died for everyone; not just for the rich, or the successful, or the wealthy, or the beautiful, or the popular.
As always, if there is anything I can do to help, please do not hesitate to reach out.
Until next time…