Hello friend! I’m so glad you’ve stopped by! This post is part of a 31-Day writing adventure, of which I only have three days left! I’d love for you to meet up ’round here and read along for the rest of the series (and beyond…). You can find the introduction to the series, and a “Table of Contents” as each day goes live, right here. Thanks so much for dropping in!

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When I was in college (the first time) t-shirts that said funny or interesting things on them were very popular. A lot of Christians wore t-shirts that looked like a popular logo, but had been redesigned to say something “Christianese” — like turning a “Burger King” into a “Savior King” and sticking a cross in there somewhere.

Sometimes the t-shirts were a little less plainly apparent, probably in the hopes of being good conversation starters. “Ask me why I’m happy…”

But the most memorable (the only one I can actually remember — I made those other two up, by the way, but you get the idea) was a t-shirt a girl who attended the same campus ministry as me wore that said “And they’ll know we are Christians by our t-shirts.” A nice slice of satire, built in to a literal “I’m a Christian” t-shirt. It was ironic, clever, and I loved it.

I’m not on a college campus anymore, and I can’t say I see too many readily-apparent evangelical t-shirts these days. But then again, I’m not out in public on a totally regular basis so who knows they could still be rolling ’em out and I’m missing it.

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{image via Zazzle}

I do know that nowadays one way people often discover whether other people are Christians (or claim to be) happens to be their interactions in social media like Facebook — which didn’t even exist when I was in college (the first time). Good thing there were t-shirts.

Last night, I saw an article posted by a Christian about a pastor right here in the good old state of North Carolina, who built a reasonably ginormous mansion on 19 acres of land in the woods. He shared about it with his congregation during his sermon one Sunday morning, and, as the Daily Mail reported it (but mind you folks, I can’t say you can really trust the Daily Mail…) he said the place was “A gift from God.”

I clicked over to read more of the story (probably a silly waste of time, I know) but in hopes of finding something redemptive. Basically, I think he’s a very young pastor with a sweet wife and three sweet young children whose church has exploded with members. Financially, the church is probably doing very, very well. 12,000 members… if even half of them tithe… math is math. Personally, his finances are probably very good, too. And fair enough, let the ox eat while it treads the grain.

We are very quick to put something like this out there — to say “Look at this guy who claims to be a Christian but is totally awful. I will post this article, and then comment that I think it’s awful, which will make me feel like I’m totally above it.”

Now can I take a little detour on this thought process? I dream of the day I have enough money to give thousands of dollars away to charity — to build wells in villages without water in Africa and build schools and sponsor heaps of children through Compassion and so on and so on. And the Hubs and I make decisions with our finances right now which we pray are our way of being “faithful with a little” (but this is little only by American standards, mind you) — we are giving within our ability at the moment, but still, striving to be generous.

But. Y’all. If somebody dropped 7.2 million dollars in our laps today? I pray I’d be faithful. I hope I’d be faithful. But I might also decide not to continue driving my mini-van. And I might even move. And I might or might not be judged for that.

Do I wish every independently wealthy pastor was as cool as Francis Chan, who instead decided to pastor his church while no longer taking a salary and, just living on a small portion of the proceeds of his book sales, is giving the rest away? Yeah, I do. Because it would make it a lot easier to point to the church and say, “Jesus loves you. Come join us in our quest to worship Him well and change the world by following His will.”

As it stands, sometimes the church is just none. too. pretty. It’s true.

Here’s what Paul wrote to the Romans when they were struggling with Christians who had different ways of walking out their faith:

Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. {Romans 14:4}

So what does all this mean for the rest of us, caught here in the in-between, who love God but sometimes find the church to be a let-down?

First, it’s like I mentioned yesterday: it is to your glory to overlook an offense. If you see a story like this, pray for the folks involved. I spent some time reading the pastor’s wife’s blog last night, and they seem like a couple of people who genuinely want to follow the Lord and challenge other people to live a life devoted to him, too. Maybe the decision to build that big house wasn’t their finest. Maybe the Lord did want to bless them with a big old mansion. What is it to you? Keep your heart set on what you should be doing to serve the Lord. And, if you want, do what I did, get up and go wash the dishes like you should, and pray for ’em while you’re at it.

Second, remember the actual verse that was paraphrased for that clever-ironic t-shirt:

 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. {John 13:35}

This verse is preceded by John 13:34, of course, which says:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

So? We “church folk” have been given a command by the Lord, and, Lord help us: we are commanded to love each other. 

Here’s the take-home from all this. If you are a believer, remember that the way we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ has the potential to draw more people to Christ who don’t know Him yet. Last night, I read a story on that blog I mentioned, about a guy who’d been living in a tent in the woods, and started going to the church. One of the church members invited him for lunch his first day, and after getting to know him, and knowing his needs, he was invited to meet his new friend for a Bible study (or some other event that evening.) When he arrived for Bible study, the church members had purchased a new tent, a heater, sleeping bags, and two truckloads worth of gear for him. As the story continued, they eventually worked to help this guy turn his life around, and he no longer lives in a tent in the woods.

Don’t those actions — doesn’t that super-hard L-word, that love say so much more than words? Why should we pick apart the flaws and point at the weaknesses? There are pure and lovely things in the church worth celebrating. Like a pastor who decides to continue to pastor without taking a salary.

But, to you folks who might be reading this but might not be so sure you believe — this is what makes this whole thing really amazing. The Lord knew that His decision to use the church to spread the Good News about His love and saving grace would look like this. He knows everything. From the moment He selected that rag-tag bunch of twelve who turned the world upside down, Jesus knew He was launching His church — His beautiful beloved bride — to be His hands and feet to a world in need.

He knew we’d mess up. He knew we’d point, accuse, argue, fight, split and probably sometimes look like a mess. But He also knew His people would go on to live among the poor in the slums of Calcutta, or lose their lives while sharing the Good News with the natives of Ecuador, or be the people who sponsor millions of children around the world in partnership with ministries rescuing kids from poverty in the name of Jesus. He knew His church wouldn’t be perfect — but He still believed she would be beautiful.

And if we are willing to let the molehills be molehills, and overlook offenses in the Name of Love — we might start to agree: Our God is gloriously good, and that He chose to use us to change the world with Him? That’s just plain glorious.

Friends, let’s make every effort to love one another.