Since we started live sessions in the House of Prayer two weeks ago, we have been inundated with prayer requests — nearly one thousand of them! While most asked for prayers for healing or deliverance, many people asked us to pray that their loved ones — especially their children — returned to church. I couldn't help but wonder why they would want to return because most of them would feel like outcasts because of their lifestyles!
Many institutional churches appear to have become trumpeting grounds for the self-righteous, where its members pat each other on the back and congratulate one another about how good they are and how bad everybody else is. And how wonderful it is that they keep all the bad people out of their exclusive club!
I am reminded of the parable that Jesus told about two men who went to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee (representative of "good" people) and the other a tax collector (representative of "bad" people). The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'
The tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' Jesus said: "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God" (see Luke 18:9-14).
We seem to have become a community of "Pharisees." What are the "tax collectors" to do? A friend of mine who is struggling with an inability to love his estranged wife because of the hurt she has caused him told me he doesn't feel like going to church anymore because he feels like a hypocrite. Why? Because he struggles to find love in his heart? Aren't we *all* struggling with something or the other? But that is how more and more people are beginning to feel, which is why churches are emptying worldwide. We believe we need to be a particular type of person before entering a church!
For all those among us who are feeling like this, Jesus is calling us to himself, telling us that there is no condemnation in him and nothing can separate us from his love. Please reach out for your Bible *now* (you can find one online if you don't own one) and read the eighth chapter of Romans — that's Romans 8. Discover Christ's unconditional love, and when the time is right, he will lead you to a group of believers who will accept you just as Christ does. But don't stay away from Christ because of how those who profess to follow him behave. He came for *you*.
May the Spirit be with you.