Make his mind flit to and fro between an expression like “the body of Christ” and the actual faces in the next pew. It matters very little, of course, what kind of people the next pew contains. You may know one of them to be a great warrior on the Enemy’s side. No matter. Your patient, thanks to Our Father Below, is a fool. Provided that any of the neighbours sing out of tune, or have shoes that squeak, or double chins, or odd clothes, the patient will quite easily believe that their religion must therefore be somehow ridiculous.
~ C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
Common Phrases Heard Within the Church Body
Everyone within the church body, when they are being honest with others and themselves, can admit to having judgmental thoughts about their brothers and sisters in Christ. Sometimes these thoughts, when not shared in secret with bosom buddies, are shared in public. Sometimes even to the judged individual’s face. Examples of these nasty comments are listed below:
- “Ouch, my ears! Is that guy trying to sing? We really need to go to a church where we can get some good tunes.”
- “She looks like she’s from the 80’s. And he has sideburns down to his chin. Why can’t this church catch up to the times and show a little style? It’s so old fashioned and outdated.”
- “OMG. Is she still eating? She shouldn’t be eating that. I mean, seriously, what a glutton. Does she even care if the homeless are fed?”
- “The preacher thinks he knows everything. He probably hates us because we don’t believe everything he preaches. Imagine if he knew what we did the other night, ha!”
- “Am I the only person who does anything good around here? Why can’t people help the poor minorities, abused women, and starving animals like I do?”
Do I return such judgmental thoughts, especially when someone makes them about my loved ones or me? Yes, I do! I’m just as hypocritical as the next church body member! Does that mean Christianity proves itself to be a false religion, creating only strife and discord? No, not in the slightest. But don’t believe me. Believe the God-inspired layman named Clive Staples Lewis.
Screwtape’s Instructions to the Demon-in-Training Regarding the Church Body
Quoted above is the big shot demon, named Screwtape, in C.S. Lewis’s novel, The Screwtape Letters. Albeit this paragraph portion showed up in only the second chapter, C.S. Lewis managed to pin a major struggle within the church body. A struggle that has separated church body members since the beginning of time: How church members compare their faith to other people’s faith.
Let’s use an example to clarify what C.S. Lewis wrote in the portion above:
Fred lives in a small town and works at the local bakery. Because he enjoys baked goods so much, his weight far, far exceeds what the BMI scale states as healthy. Unbeknownst to most people who enter his bakery, Fred reads Scripture every morning and night, prays everyday, gives food to the metropolitan homeless shelter, and serves in several positions at the local First Baptist Church. Paula doesn’t know any of this about Fred.
Paula recently accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. She had been hungry for many years, and she always struggled to keep a roof over her head. Wishing to learn more about her faith and serve with fellow Christians, she stopped by at the town’s First Baptist Church to hear a sermon. During the sermon, she spotted Fred.
Fred was hard to miss. Due to his size, he breathed heavily and loudly. He also had a tendency to fidget, which made his chair squeak. When the pastor made a joke, Fred laughed loudly. But, despite Fred’s joviality and kindness in greeting those around him, Paula was disgusted.
For when Paula looked at Fred, she saw an obese man who did nothing but draw attention to himself. To her, his size indicated he had a poor work ethic ,and he had struggled very little in his life. It was a very long and pampered life, from the looks of it. She hated Fred. He seemed to represent everything she ever wanted, but was always being denied, because of people like him.
All who knew Fred, loved Fred. But people, who have only recently come to the faith, can see nothing beyond their own personal struggles. C.S. Lewis knew this. He also believed demons help influence the new believers to think in these ways. Let’s not mistake what makes a believer a new believer: Someone who enters the faith, proclaiming to know and love God, but never growing closer to God and maturing in Christ, will always be a new believer. C.S. Lewis recognized a new believer’s vulnerability to the devil’s lies, regarding all areas of life and belief.
Remaining Strong in the Church Body
Please don’t think that I have a final solution to this problem! Other than with the countless prayers and daily readings I try to maintain for my own faith, I’m incapable of maintaining pure thoughts toward anyone, let alone my fellow believers in Christ. Even when I pray, I find my thoughts turning scornful and judgmental. But, I have hope. Just as everyone who struggles as I do has hope.
The one, true God knows how His followers struggle. For Christians only have righteousness through Christ. So, when believers neglect God and fall and fail, they can always turn back toward God and find forgiveness. To take action against humanity’s propensity to judge each other, probably the best course of action, other than prayer, is to remember our need to love each other.
Love is an action. Our feelings sometimes contradict how we should behave toward someone, hence why we must choose love and respect. Even toward people we disagree with. So, whether you love or hate your church body, Christians need to recognize all people fall short of the glory of God. And this applies to all people.
Therefore, the next time you see someone in a negative light, reconsider how God sees this person. Christians and nonbelievers alike are God’s children. So, if someone in your own church’s body seems to exemplify the very things that you’ve grown to hate, reconsider whether you see the person correctly. Or if God can justify your hate.