Lessons From The Dentist’s Chair (Part 2)
Last week I spent an extensive amount of time getting some work done on my teeth by the dentist. From that stay, I was struck by an array of spiritual insights that I’ve decided to share. If you missed yesterday’s post, read it here first then continue on with today’s entry.
My initial reaction to entering the dentist’s office was that of fear, apprehension, and nervousness. Odds are, you feel the same way at the dentist’s as well. Why is that? Well, for me, it mostly stemmed from guilt; I knew I had not been taking care of my teeth like I needed to, and I was worried about the condemnation I faced. Surely they would scold me for my failings and look down on me with judgmental attitudes. Needless to say, I was not looking forward to my visit.
But during my time there I felt so welcome and at home. Everyone was friendly and kind to me. Even the dentist and hygienist, as they shared their findings with me, held no judgment or disdain in their voices, but merely concern. They presented me with the solution to my problems and explained what necessary changes I would have to make to prevent future issues from cropping up. It set me at ease but also filled me with encouragement and a resolve that a change in my habits was not only possible, but obtainable.
It occurred to me that this might be what holds people back from visiting our churches. We as Christians are often viewed by the world as a judgmental lot (and not without good reason based on our track record). Yet we are perplexed as to why we struggle to see new faces visit the church. More than likely, they are overwhelmed at the thought of coming in. They fear that everyone is going to look down on them and condemn them for all of their mistakes, or pass judgment on them for their lifestyle choices. That doesn’t sound like an enjoyable or desirable experience at all.
Sadly, too often we oblige all too willingly to fulfill those preconceived notions. There is an extreme in Christianity that has often preached condemnation without love and that is a mistake. Instead we the Church need to welcome people in and love on them, refraining from the hypocritical judgmental attitude that is so easy to indulge in.
But there is another extreme in Christianity that would say that love is enough. We are all sinners and we are all under grace. No one has the right or the authority to challenge you to change anything about yourself. What you are doing might not even be sin; it is all subjective and times and culture have changed since the Bible was written. Just accept people how they are and join together in community.
That is not the solution either. Instead there needs to be a balance, like I experienced firsthand at the dentist’s office. They made me feel welcome without passing judgment, but they also told me the problem and the solution and called me to change.
It is interesting to note that’s what Jesus did too, every time. Jesus hung out with sinners, prostitutes, embezzlers, and the like, but He also always called them to repent and to stop sinning. He wasn’t content to leave them where they were at, but He was gentle in His concern for their condition, presenting them the problem and the solution and encouraging change in their lives. Our message is the same as Jesus: Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.
What end of the spectrum are you currently residing? Do you struggle to stifle your knee-jerk judgmental attitude when encountered with people outside the church? Or does the idea of calling someone to change their life and abandon sin make you queasy and uneasy? What will it take to achieve some balance between these extremes in your life and model the loving but firm example of Jesus?