An unsettling writing prompt…

I got a photo from a friend of mine, Myles Bristowe.  Myles sent me the photo and asked if I’d blog my response to it.  If you’ve been paying attention, you remember Myles from a previous blog post.  Myles sent me this photo as a type of offshoot of a conversation we’ve been having about the Church.  You can see that conversation in the comment section of this post.

Here’s the photo he sent me.  Take a good look at it and then I’ll tell you what I think of it.

First of all, its true.  I can’t argue the fact that technically speaking, there will be all of these kinds of people (listed on the sign) that will indeed be in hell.  It’s not pleasant to think about, but its nonetheless true.

But please don’t stop reading here and not let me add my own labels to the list:

Accountants, Teachers, Nurses, Consultants, Software Programmers, Marketing Specialists, Exterminators, Car salesmen, Insurance underwriters, Authors, Pastors, Construction workers, Gas station attendants, Cashiers…you get the idea.

But here’s where this particular church makes its fatal error: They seem to be saying that its THESE people who will go to hell because they have THESE labels.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.  This simply couldn’t be more disastrously wrong than it is.  And it breaks the heart of God for those who represent Him to do so in such a way that makes Him seem like the kind of God who would say, “Welcome to heav—-oh, wait—is that a skateboard under your arm?!? Well then, in that case:  Depart from Me, I never knew you were one of THOSE people.”

Those who inhabit hell will be those who do not receive the free grace gift of forgiveness that only Jesus has the right to give.  THAT’S who will be in hell.  And believe me, I know how unpopular that message is, but simply because a message is unpopular, doesn’t mean its not true.

Also, whoever put this sign up needs to get a better grasp on the word “repent”.  Of course, our response to the message of the Gospel has repentance as a critical piece, but it must come from a heart of brokenness, not from responding to a proverbial gun to your head.  I have a handful of really close friends.  None of those friendships started when I pulled out a handgun, pointed it at them, and said, “We’re gonna be friends aren’t we?  AREN’T WE???”

Of course repentance is necessary. I’ve read the Bible and I understand that.  But in my opinion this sign puts this local church on the same level as the Westboro kooks who tote their “God Hates Fags” signs and who protest at the funerals of fallen soldiers (the same soldiers who died defending their freedom to protest at their funerals).

My conversation with Myles centered around the importance and role of the Church.  The Church is the people of God, surrendered to Him, following Jesus, giving grace as freely as they’ve received it, and following the commands of God in the power of His Holy Spirit.  When we say “church” we often think “church service” and I’ve seen plenty of church services that quite honestly need to be tied to the nearest tree and have a bullet put in their head because they are neither drawing people to Christ nor are they “equipping the saints for the work of service.” (Eph. 4:12)  Believe me, I know “church people” can be condescending, judgmental, bigoted, and hypocritical to name a few adjectives.  And so can atheists, Roman Catholics, Buddhists, mechanics, alcoholics, and Muslims.  Its the human condition to be flawed, and a common mistake non-Christians make is to expect Christians to be perfect.  Trust me–I KNOW better than you how imperfect I am. I’m flawed, broken, messed up, and prone to sin.  I do not ever want to perpetuate the farce that I’ve got anything together.

But that’s the glory of the cross.  I, you, we, ANYONE can go to foot of the cross of Christ and find forgiveness, full and free.  There is NO ONE outside the reach of God’s gracious redemption of mankind.  Many will turn from that offer for a myriad of reasons, but not one of them is a good reason.  Many will point their finger at flawed “Christians” and say, “If that’s what God does, I’ll take my chances on my own.”  Many will consider their sin so deep, so encompassing that there simply isn’t anyway out.  Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

As much as I hate this church sign and the completely inaccurate perception of God it perpetuates, I hate even more to think that people will see it and decide that it accurately represents the God of the Bible, His love, His Son, His Church, and their mission.

So, what do you think?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and I’d even love to hear/see other church signs that leave you scratching and shaking your head.

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One thought on “An unsettling writing prompt…

  1. Hey, Jer! Great post, by the way! Right on the money. But an additional thought which I had as I read it was that many might read it and assume that THEY ARE OK because they don’t happen to fit on that particular list. Also, I am so glad that you included “pastors” in your extended list of offenders. There but for the grace of God go I! Keep writing.

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