Let’s be honest. Many people go to church to avoid hell. They’ve been told they must do certain things to avoid spending eternity in a lake of fire. The fear is enough to get them out of bed and into the pews. They reason, ‘if there’s even a slight chance of this horrifying future, I’ll do what it takes.’
Others go to church because they want to belong to the club. They paste on their Sunday smiles and shake hands with friends. At this club, they won’t have to delve into messy conflict, hearing opinions of people they don’t agree with. They’re not into that so they enjoy being part of the club.
Still others go out of shame. They fear their parents would be so disappointed if they didn’t go to church. Others are ashamed of how they act during the week, so they drag their feet but go anyway. Some go because they don’t want to look bad to their neighbors or friends.
And there are those who go to church out of obligation. They feel it’s their weekly duty. Maybe they do it for their kids. Maybe it’s for God. Maybe it’s just a habit.
Let’s look at this from God’s perspective.
Like a mother, God smothers us with love just because we are. We’re His creation. We’re enough. Our uniqueness is what makes us lovable. There is nothing we can do to earn his love and affection. We can’t control His love because it just IS. We are good with this thought both inside and outside of the church.
It feels good to get something for nothing. Who wouldn’t accept that?
God also loves us like a father. God’s fatherly love comes in the form of asking more from us. It isn’t so much judgment, but a push towards being a better person, staying away from the crap that destroys our souls, and sucking it up by doing some things we don’t want to do. God demands things of us because He loves us, not because he must judge our bad behavior.
When we combine the unconditional motherly love, with the demands of a father’s love, we come up with a perfect combination to develop a child into a loving, happy, caring, patient, confident, well-adjusted person. This child becomes free to love. They understand their unique gifts and talents. They use them to love and care for others because they want to. They live in freedom. Free from expectations, free from insecurity, free to love.
It’s all about love
Wouldn’t it be great if the reason we went to church is because we believed it was the best place to learn to love? What if this were the place, we could learn to love ourselves better, love our neighbors better, and love our God better?
It’s available. Go to any church this weekend and sing with others, regardless of how tone-deaf they are. Listen to a teaching about love. Give yourself this gift so that you can love your friends, family, and world better.
But beware! As soon as you go through the front doors, you’ll be greeted by people who have had childhood trauma, messy relationships, and stress they’re not capable of dealing with. Just because you stand in a church, doesn’t mean the junk has gone away. The people there are also striving for more perfect love but none have mastered it.
It’s more of a workout facility than a stadium.
There’s another potential threat. The leader. But consider this. In addition to sharing in our pursuit of more perfect love, they have the added pressure of looking perfect. It’s hard to lead a group of people to be better knowing full well your own failings. Although they’ve gone to school for this whole spiritual thing, they still have blind spots, so don’t judge too quickly.
Sometimes they’ll get it wrong, even though they’re standing in the pulpit.
Finally, how about instead of going to church just to get something, you could also try to give something? Sunday morning could be your practice facility where you greet the church lady / tattoo man / annoying teenager, and just love who they are. It may take all you have, but the process is worth it.