I remember sitting down to meet with a guy over a cup of coffee. We chatted about life and the weather. As the conversation became more serious, he said something I’ll never forget. He spoke about issues he faced in his past and said, “All my life I thought everyone else was the problem. I didn’t realize I was the problem.”
What my friend said reminded me of something else I heard from a youth pastor:
“If the world stinks, clean your mustache.”
Stinky Mustache vs. Stinky World
Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever had days when you got angry at the world? When the bills are too high? The traffic’s too slow? Your boss is being unreasonable, and your spouse doesn’t understand?
A lot of us have stinky mustaches but confuse it for a stinky world. Yes, we live in a sinful place. But it’s in part a sinful place because you and I are sinful people. We paint ourselves as victims, but are actually co-perpetrators. We spend more time worrying about everyone else’s problems instead of the one under our noses: our attitude.
The Problem's Not Everyone Else
No wonder people see Christians as combative. Most of what they do and say concerns everyone else. Christians will condemn relatives and coworkers, but rarely themselves. Christians misidentify church as a place to fight an evil world instead of a place to recognize their own evil hearts. The fact is that Christians need to follow Jesus because they're the ones in need of help. It’s not a place to deal with everyone else's problems. It's a place to deal with their own problems. And, to rediscover the solution.
Jesus made this clear during His ministry. The Jews thought Jesus came to resolve the issues found in everyone else. What they didn’t realize was that He came to resolve the issues found in them. They pointed their fingers at the Samaritans, Romans, whores, and cripples, waiting for Jesus to renounce them. But Jesus didn’t want to talk about everyone else’s problems. He wanted to talk about their problems.
What Are You Devoted To?
Churches fail to be effective when its members concern themselves only with everyone else. Paul saw this in Crete, the island where his friend Titus was leading the church. Paul reminded him that believers needed to devote themselves to God, not to themselves.
"I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works... But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless." Titus 3:8a-9
Many believe post-modernism is the greatest danger to the American church. It’s not. Pride is. No legitimate American church has ever closed its doors because of anti-Christian legislation. Yet hundreds of churches die every year because members can’t agree on whether to include a drum set on stage. Satan doesn’t kill churches. He places the gun in Christians' hands and has them do it themselves. They accuse the world of murder while committing their own suicides.
When you go to church, what percentage of your thoughts, words, and actions do you spend praising God? What percentage do you spend praising yourself? Or worse, criticizing others? Are there folks you avoid? Are there people you insist are beneath you? There’s a hundred reasons people become divided in the world: local feuds, small-town politics, etc. Those things have no place in church. If it does, the church no longer exists as a sanctuary to God but as a sanctuary to each individual's ego.
When you come to church, to what do you devote yourself? Self-righteousness? Your singing talent? Bible knowledge? The desire to spend time with “your type of people” as opposed to “those other people?” As long as people use Church to set themselves apart from everyone else, it will be ineffective. Churches instead must set God apart from everything else. Churches must see God as more pressing than the aroma under their noses. They must see Him as sweeter than approval. Richer than money. Better than rock n' roll. More precious than hymns. God is too great to waste time complaining about everyone else. He only gave us so many breathes, they better exhale praise
People want Jesus to deal with a stinky world, but Jesus wants to deal with a stinky mustache. Church cannot be a place to draw lines in the sand. It must be a place where every week people fall on their knees in despair as they realize their sin, and then shudder in ecstasy as they remember God’s grace. When Christians let God clean their mustaches, they see others in light of God's grace and not their own bitterness. When that happens, real change occurs in the lives of the lost. Because only then will real change occur in the hearts of the found. And there will be no time to gossip about the obnoxious perfume Dolores wears in the row behind you.
Resting in Him,