Policemen aren’t the only ones who have this problem.
God spent an entire chapter on the priests of Israel who shirked their duties (Ezek 34). Many good priests still quietly went about fulfilling their obligations, like Zaccharias, honored to serve in the house of the Lord, but by the time of Christ, too many were political animals, caring only for their own power and wealth, like Annas and Caiaphas.
The Jews in the Old Testament while still acting “as the people” Ezek 33:30-32, behaved in a manner unsuitable to God’s children. They forgot who their Father was and shamed Him with their immorality, lack of compassion, and idolatry. Yes, a remnant remained, but they too suffered because the majority represented the whole, and the world laughed Jehovah to scorn when He allowed them to be punished. Yet He did allow it, because the representation of Jehovah’s children was shameful.
In the New Testament, their descendants gave the people another bad name—“Pharisees,” which though merely a sect concerned with carefully keeping the Law, eventually came to mean “self-righteous hypocrite.” It is easy to believe in a quick read that no righteous Pharisees existed, yet among them were Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, and Saul of Tarsus. In spite of them, the general impression the majority left had Jesus regularly condemning them.
Things have not changed. Just as a corrupt cop can give all policemen a bad name, bad churches can give all other churches a bad name. How many times have I had to defend the group I worship with because some other group far away lacked compassion, failed in its duty to teach the whole gospel instead of just its own pet slogans, or refused to welcome the troubled, the disabled, and the sinner? More than I want to count.
But more to the point this morning, have I given God’s people a bad name? What do my friends, neighbors and co-workers think about my brethren, not by what they have seen of them in person, but by what they have seen of me? Do I, in fact, complain about them all the time? Do I gossip? Am I constantly angry and unhappy instead of cheerful and pleasant to be around? Do I assist whenever I can, whoever I can, or do I have biases that anyone who knows me can list without a second’s thought? Am I reliable, trustworthy, and honest to a fault? How is my language and my dress? We are foolish to think no one notices these things, and we bring shame on our Creator when they do.
The church is one big House of Representatives. When the world looks at us, it sees the Lord. Would He be happy with the picture you are painting of Him today?
For as touching those who were once enlightened and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the age to come, and then fell away, it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame, Hebrews 6:4-6.