Sunday Morning Safe Zone
Sunday School, Worship Service, Hmmm!
The rage lately on college campuses is to create a “safe zone” where group think prevails in curtailing speech that is deemed offensive. The notion of personal responsibility, moral standards and consideration of others has given way to self-absorption, self-gratification and self-exaltation has resulted in suppressing descent of any kind at all costs. Where did this come from? How did it start?
Perhaps we can look at Christian practices as an example. Reading one of my favorite Christian devotionals there was a statement that stopped me dead in my tracks. The writer lamented: “I wonder if church seems more like an exclusive club than a safe haven for forgiven sinners.” This statement literally shocked me. Since when has the church (ekklésia – those God has called out of the world) become an exclusive club or a “safe haven” for forgiven sinners? Since when has the church (God’s people not a building, religion or organization) become an introverted “safe zone” for Christians. How has the expression of Christian faith become a “Sunday Morning Safe Zone” for believers?
Over time Christians have become more interested in socializing than evangelizing, more concerned about learning than practicing what they have learned and the results are evident. It is easier to invite someone to church than confront them with the good news of the gospel. It’s easier to shun behaviors that offend us than demonstrate compassion and forgiveness as did Jesus. That being the case church has become a place where people commiserate in “Christian” group think antipodal to that of the “Safe Zone” group think out in the world. Both result in isolation and condemnation of others the only difference being polarization. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the statement; “I can’t wait for church on Sunday. I running on empty. I need to be with the people of God (code for people who think like me)…” Today “church” has become about buildings and programs, status and position, socialization and comradery, education with no accountability and identification with no action resulting in introversion, isolation, arrogance and condescension. While no Christian sets out to become any of those things it has happened none the less. It happened during Jesus’ time and it’s happening today.
Jesus addressed this condition in Luke 18:9-14 “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.’”
In Matthew 28:19 Jesus commanded that we “go therefore and make disciples of all nations” and in Luke 12:12 He told us “the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Corporate worship of the Church should be an explosion of expression exalting God for what He done all week. It must not be a safe zone where believers commiserate on how terrible the world.
In order to better understand this let’s dig deeper into the passage in Luke 18 which describes two men. Both the Pharisee and the tax collector were in “church.” Both prayed. One spoke a highly educated religious prayer of arrogance, condescension and condemnation while one examined his own sinful nature declaring his unworthiness in God’s presence. One came to exalt himself, one came to beg for God’s mercy. One went to his house justified and one did not.
How does the scripture in Luke relate to Sunday Morning Safe Zones? Jesus declared in Luke 12:11-12 there are no safe zones for Christians. “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” He commanded extroversion not introversion. He called on believers to go out and share their faith not come together to commiserate the worlds condition. Jesus viewed sinners with compassion, reconciliation and forgiveness while condemning religious arrogance, condescension and condemnation, so we must ask ourselves why we go to church. Do we see and condemn a world full of sinners or do we see ourselves as sinners who need God’s mercy and have compassion for those who have not experienced God’s forgiveness? Do we look forward to being bolstered in order to survive another week or do we burst with exuberance over what God has done during the past week? Do we trust in the education of man to keep us safe or do we trust God’s Holy Spirit in any situation?
Do we rely on the comfort of a “Sunday Morning Safe Zone for Christians” or do we trust God to guide and support us in every situation, every minute of every day?
Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”