The Most Awful, Wonderful Thing You’ll Ever Have to Do in Church

Andreas Achebach (German, 1815-1910). oil on canvas, Clearing Up-Coast of Sicily, 1847When I was in junior high and high school, like most kids that age, I had pimples. On my face. On my back. On my arms. I won’t lie; it was gross. I hated looking at myself in the mirror, those little pockets of pus and gunk mocking me. So I waged war. I pinched and pressed, scrubbed and cleansed. I never tried make-up but that was definitely a thought I’d had.

It was awful, messy work, but couldn’t just stand by and do nothing. When you have a blemish you have to do something, right?

Well, except when it happens in the church, especially our church leadership. We tend to tolerate those blemishes without so much as a second thought.

Jude puts it this way:

These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm (Jude 12)

And then he goes on to describe the blemishes:

–shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted–twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever (Jude 12-13).

 

What strikes me from this passage is not so much the kind of leaders we are dealing with here–selfish, feeding only themselves; Like clouds without rain which don’t keep their promises; without fruit; manipulative like wild waves, jerking people around; rebellious and power-hungry, wandering stars (think Lucifer, the fallen angel, whose account Enoch details and Jude quotes)–they are blemished to be sure.

I am not even really shocked that these are the kinds of people–because they pervert the church, the bride of Christ–“for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.”

Ok, that’s a little shocking, and sobering.

But what is really shocking is that they participate in the church, “eating with you without the slightest qualm.

I had to look it up, too. A qualm is “an uneasy feeling of doubt, worry, or fear, especially about one’s own conduct; a misgiving.” They’re not worried about joining in the life and fellowship of the church. No qualms. Not a one.

I find that troubling. And I don’t blame them. They have no qualms because the church is not giving them any. We have some pimples we refuse to pop. I get it that we don’t like to work on blemishes: it is messy business; it is painful and can leave some scars.

I think the most awful, but wonderful thing you can do as part of the church body is to lovingly, prayerfully and intentionally confront the kind of men and women, and especially leaders, that Jude describes in verses 12 and 13. We have to, if the church is going to be the beautiful bride God intends for it to be.

Many times, I, and others in our church, have followed the guidelines for this kind of confrontation found in Matthew, chapter 18. It is hard and messy work, but in the end it produces something beautiful, a church without blemish.

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