There is a popular meme on Facebook that says, “I’d rather attend church with messed up people who love God, than religious people who dislike messed up people.”
The Messed Up
So, what is this saying? And what do the Scriptures say about this? First of all, let’s look at what the phrase “messed up” means:
Mess – chaos, confusion, disorder, disarray, disaster, trouble
Messed up – failed, ruined, abortive, futile, miss the mark (sin)
So, if you quote this, what you are saying is that you would rather attend church (meaning the fleshly and worldly gatherings of the institutional church, not the body of Christ) with people who are failed, ruined, abortive, who have missed the mark, i.e. who are still living in sin, and who are not walking in holiness and righteousness according to the Spirit but who are still walking (in conduct, in practice) according to the flesh.
And so you are also stating that these who are messed up, i.e. who are still living in sin, according to the flesh, who are living failed and ruined lives, are those who love God. And we’ll discuss that in a few minutes. But then you are saying that you would rather be in “church” with people who are still living in sin than you would be with people who are religious.
The Religious and Love for God
So, let’s define “religious.”
Religious – spiritual, sacred, devout, moral, virtuous, reverent, holy, godly, faithful, loyal, reliable, professers of faith in Jesus Christ, worshipers of God, pure, undefiled, unspotted from the world, merciful, loving
Okay, then let’s go back to the part about “who love God.” So, what does the Bible teach about love for God? It says that if we love God that we will obey his commandments. And love means to prefer what God prefers, which is what is holy, righteous, morally pure, upright, faithful, and honest, etc. And it means to obey his choices in his power. And if we do not obey him, we do not love him, and we do not know him, and we don’t have eternal life with him. So, the “messed up” do not love God.
[Jn 8:51; Jn 14:15-24; Jn 15:10; Rom 6:16; Heb 5:9; 1 Pet 1:2; Jas 1:21-25; 1 Jn 2:3-6, 15; 1 Jn 3:4-10, 18, 24; 1 Jn 4:19-20; 1 Jn 5:2-3; 2 Jn 1:6]
The Religious and the Disliked
Now, let’s look at the word “dislike.”
Dislike – hate, loathing, displeasure, detest, disapprove, displeased
Okay, now I want to go back and look at “religious” along with “dislike,” for I think this can go several different ways. You can be falsely religious, i.e. you can be devout, dedicated, and loyal to the wrong things or to a false god. And that can be loyalty and devotion to any man-made religion, which includes not just legalists who follow a set of man-made rules and who look down on anyone who doesn’t follow their rules, but it includes followers of the cheap grace gospel whose religion tells them that they don’t have to repent of their sins or obey the Lord or submit to his Lordship.
And they are looking down on the religious who are following the Lord with wholehearted devotion, which is exactly what this meme is depicting. So, the “messed up” are “disliking” those they deem to be “religious,” which often is not the true legalists, but it is those who are following the Lord in purity of devotion to him and who are walking in his ways and in his truth and who are exposing the fruitless deeds of darkness and who are calling people to repentance and obedience and to make Jesus their master.
But the truly religious, I mean those who are truly following Jesus with their lives don’t “dislike” the “messed up.” They love them, and they weep over them, and they grieve because they are “messed up,” and so they speak the truth in love to them, and they expose Satan’s lies to them, and they share with them the truth of the gospel because they love them, and because they want them to be free from their chains and from their addiction to sin, and they want to see them walk in victory over darkness and in holiness and in righteousness and to have true salvation from sin and eternal life with God.
And then let’s look at the definition of “church.” The word in the Greek is “ekklēsía,” which means: “People called out from the world and to God.” “The universal (total) body of Christ (of believers in Christ) whom God calls out from the world and into his eternal kingdom.” “Belonging to the Lord.” (source: https://biblehub.com/greek/1577.htm).
This is also what it means to be holy or to be saints. It means to be unlike (different) from the world because we are being made into the likeness of Christ. We are called out from the world and unto God. And if we are unlike the world, and if we are called out from the world, then we shouldn’t be defined as the “messed up,” but we should be defined as the “religious” who are holy, righteous, godly, morally pure, and unspotted from the world.
So, the church is not a building or a church denomination or an organization or a corporation or a business which is being marketed to the world. The church is the called out of God, who are living lives which are separate from the world because they are being conformed into the likeness of Christ. And that church can meet any day of the week at any hour in any location.
Summary of the “Messed up” Meme
So, back to the meme itself. If we now read the meme in light of what we just learned here we can’t help but see the fallacy in the whole thing. For, “church” is the body of Christ of people who are holy and who are called out of the world and unto God, to live godly and righteous lives. They are not the “messed up,” although they are certainly not perfect. But if they are living in spiritual adultery against the Lord, they are “messed up.” But the church, as a whole, should not be “messed up.”
The “messed up” are those who are living in sin, in disobedience to the Lord, who are failing to keep God’s commandments, and so they don’t love God. And the Scriptures teach that if this is how we live, in practice, that we don’t know God and that we will not inherit eternal life with God. They do show us, though, that it is possible for Christians to get far away from God and to need to be brought back to God via repentance, but if they do not repent, then they will not inherit eternal life with God.
And lastly, the truly religious are those who are walking in faithful obedience to the Lord, who are doing what he commands, and who are walking in holiness, righteousness, moral purity, honesty, and faithfulness, etc. And if this is where they are, they don’t “dislike” the “messed up,” but they love them and they are weeping over them and they are praying for their salvation and/or for them to return to the Lord. And so they are speaking the truth in love to them in hopes they will repent and obey the Lord.
[Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10, 19-20; 2 Co 5:10, 15; Tit 2:11-14; Jas 1:22-25; Rom 12:1-2; Eph 2:8-10; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Matt 7:21-23; Heb 10:26-27; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10]
How Can I Keep From Singing
By Eithne Ni Bhraonain / Nicky Ryan / Roma Ryan
My life goes on in endless song
Above earth’s lamentation,
I catch the sweet, though far-off hymn
That hails a new creation.
Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing,
It finds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?
What though my joys and comfort die?
The Lord my Savior liveth.
What though the darkness gather round?
Songs in the night He giveth.
No storm can shake my inmost calm,
While to that refuge clinging.
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,
How can I keep from singing?
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