|A key part of being an evangelical Christian as well as
any Christian is not being smug. This includes caring
acceptance of those who do not happen to hold conservative
and supportive Christian doctrines and beliefs. People outside
our beliefs are still inside our caring and concern. It is
not unanimity of intellectual agreement that holds the
world together, it is unanimity of love and caring.
It is really rather silly the way some people in the churches carry on about beliefs and doctrines and creeds. These are important but these are not so important. What is important is realizing the reality of Christ. It is the interaction between you and Christ which is of most importance. Creeds are more like anchors while the reality of God is the motivating force that drives the churched.
We in the evangelical Christian churches preach the reality of Christ. Whatever other attributes God may have, the central issue is meeting and knowing the reality of Christ as a reality in your life. We are to practice the reality of God according to the light, the grace, we have been given in whatever society and social position we are in. And God is a spirit hovering in known and unknown ways all over the earth.
Some may not have had grace to know Christ. These we should never look down on but try to be understanding, sympathetic and not self-righteous in dealing with them. (Unfortunately, many people join the churches to appear respectable, not because they know Christ. Had they known Christ, they would be less smug. But there is a smug fifth column in the churches of those who have joined the church to appear respectable. This spiritual fifth column is smug. It is unbelievably smug. But we must face the fact there are users and abusers of Christianity. Yet we cannot be unkind to them either. Someday they may change. Such is the patience and grace of God. A spiritual dawn may break one day for anyone. With God, there is always hope.)
It is a great sorrow to God that there are so many people in the church who do not know God or even wish to know God since it might call for changes in their lives. There are many people in the churches without Christ. There are church organizations seemingly lacking Christ. An ecclesiastical organization without Christ is like a ring without a diamond. It lacks the excuse for its being and the purpose it was created to fulfill.
It is unfortunate when people assume the churches see eye to eye with Christ. That is ridiculous. The churches of all denominations and creeds usually see with one eye on Christ and the other eye on what the world thinks, where the power lies or where the money is.
This is not to say avoid the church, no, the world and individuals need it, but we should be realistic about it to serve Christ well. Or we will be duped by a corrupt church and may miss Christ. Good people, think clearly. You cannot avoid what is corrupt since nearly everything is corrupt in some way. You may and should seek the least corrupt. But you should be aware of the corruption in order to serve well. It is the same for all social institutions. All are corrupt but some are not as corrupt as others. Seek the least corrupt but know what the weakness is so you may serve well and further the good.
It is the same with the people who are your friends. Who can find  a sinless friend? The idea is impossible. And if your friend were sinless, what would he or she want with you? Your friends will no doubt be sinners but you can refuse to pander to whatever weakness they have. A false friend as you know, panders to the weakness of friends to make them like him or her. But a good friend tries to help or strengthen friends. So do not be a “hyena” friend who waits for a weakness to bring down others so the hyena can feast. (I may be too obviously preaching here, but why not? This is a sermon!)
Let us remember as evangelicals, we are included among neo-Calvinists, and as neo-Calvinists, we see with the sight of The Apostle, Paul, who saw the sinfulness of human beings and institutions molded by human nature. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3: 23 KJV).
On faith and morals, popes not withstanding, I say that churches are often sinners. Do not be misled by them. Your duty is to be in a institution and be wary of it. For everything there is a season. You must know when trust is appropriate and when it is not. Mankind is saved by trust in God and sometimes lack of trust in people. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9 KJV, Also see Matthew 15:19.)
There is trust and there is too much trust or over trust. Because we can trust God does not mean we can trust in everything those who say, just say, they believe in God. Ours is essentially a Protestant position. Because I can believe God on many things does not mean I can or should believe churches, groups of people gathered, on everything. As Luther said, authority must come from scripture and reason.
The church is an organization that may or may not represent the mind and will of God. Today of course in a pagan and God negative society and civilization I would say with Jesus that the churches are in danger of being expensive whitened tombs from which the Spirit of Christ has long since departed. Look around you. Judge for yourself.
But Christ is still alive. He walks the earth. He is available to those who seek Him. Some I think neither wish Christ or want Him. But I suggest you would profit by His light in whatever circumstances you are in.
Yet Christ may not be clearly labeled “Christ” ! Many are misled. Grace is everywhere but the mind of God is often above the threshold of our ability to recognize it. We are slow to see and hesitant to label Him.
People expect to see God purely but God works through man and thus is often part of a mix. And God rarely works directly. He works ironically and often indirectly in ways that are not immediately obvious to literal folk who want God clearly labeled yet rarely will listen to or believe His prophets.
Great artists and great prophets are often not recognized until they are gone. But what does that matter? Their missions were accomplished. The rest is vanity and personalistic nonsense which should not sway people on a mission of any spiritual depth.
Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.