By Edwin Crayton/Opinion
Once upon a time, there was a pretty college freshman named Goldilocks. She was smart, and charming. Naturally, she was quite popular on campus—especially with the boys– but also with many of the girls. This meant she was invited to all the right parties and social events and had a very active dating life. She tried many new things and explored several lifestyle choices. She would drink or smoke whatever was passed around and indulged in her new freedoms the way some people indulge in a large, tasty bag of potato chips. When Goldilocks was a teen she had been warned about all this by Brad, her youth director at church, nevertheless, she ignored all that. She was free. Yet, somehow all of it left her feeling empty.
One day, she attended an event on campus and received a small Bible. She read it and the words began to fill the empty spaces in her heart. She gave her heart to Christ, accepting him as savior and Lord of her life (John 3:16, Romans 10:9-10). Goldilocks realized she needed to learn more about God and also needed to be among other believers for encouragement (Hebrews 10:25). So, she began to look for a church. And well, that is when things got interesting.
One bright Sunday morning, she got up early and headed for a well-manicured, tree-lined street known for having three large churches. One was on the far left side of the street. Another sat on the far-right side and there was one in between. She decided to visit all of them. She started with the church on the far left first. Once inside, she was surprised to notice that everything in the church was pushed to the far left: the pews, the altar, the people. It was pretty wild because the right side of the sanctuary was completely empty. The members did everything on the left. During the sermon, the pastor talked a lot about tolerance and not being judgmental. Goldilocks thought to herself “Well, they sure have judged the right side of the building.” In the Sunday School class after church, Goldilocks mentioned that she was a new Christian and that she was there to learn the truth about God. The teacher told her that it was not about “the” truth but about the truth as Goldilocks saw it—her truth. Goldilocks asked about sin and repentance and the teacher asked her, “What are those?” Goldilocks became confused. This church seemed to disregard many of the teachings and moral concepts in the Bible she was reading. Yet it was a church. It didn’t believe in hell, sin, repentance or absolute truth. It seemed in this church, there was no right or wrong. You could really just do what you wanted and still be a Christian. Everything was so far left of the Scriptures. As she walked away disillusioned, she noticed that even a statue of an angel only had a left wing.
Next Sunday, she visited the church on the far-right side of the street. Inside, everything was pushed to the far right. Goldilocks thought, “Here we go again.” While the other church seemed to think nothing was wrong, this one spoke a lot about sin and right and wrong. But even though they were accurate about their Bible concepts, they leaned right even as they worshipped. In fact, the teacher in her Sunday School class leaned so far right he actually fell over and hit the floor. Plop! There was a lot of flag waving, and political talk. In this church, like the other one, it mattered how you voted. Although they talked about America a lot, everybody in the church was the same color. And Goldilocks got the feeling they liked it that way. They served a snack after church. But Goldilocks lost her appetite when she noticed the featured item on the menu was a chicken dish of right wings.
As she walked home, Goldilocks was feeling a little down. But then, just as suddenly, she became hopeful when she remembered there was still one church left to visit. She cautiously walked to the church in between the other two. As she approached, she heard laughter. Inside, she was welcomed by a young Asian woman about her own age who hugged her and handed her a church program. Goldilocks already felt better. This was the kind of Christian love she had been reading about in the Bible. The sermon was inspiring and Goldilocks remembered the references from her own reading. There was no obsession with politics, left or right. The members were not all one color. They talked about serving God and reaching lost people here and abroad. In fact, afterwards, they went out to hand out spiritual literature and witness in a shopping center. Her Sunday School class talked about giving out lunches to needy families. But most impressive of all, the church reminded her of the first churches as described in the Bible. In those churches, people focused on salvation. They worked hard to spread the Gospel to people who did not know Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20). They pooled their money to do the work God commanded: feeding the poor, evangelizing, and building up the kingdom, sacrificing in order to build good churches that trained members in strong doctrine and godly living. Goldilocks reflected on it all, “Wow! The first church she had visited was too far left. The second one was too far right. But this one was just right!” She appreciated the fact that this church was not part of some culture war. They knew the real war is a spiritual war between God and Satan. In this war, the devil is trying to deceive people into disobeying God so they will suffer eternal damnation. By contrast, God’s followers are sharing the gospel so people can be saved (Ephesians 6:12). In the third church, the teaching and preaching were strictly from a biblical viewpoint. She felt she was hearing from God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The church did not fashion itself after worldly ideas of morality and boldly taught against the current spread of immorality. At this church, Jesus was not just savior but lord. They didn’t try to give Christianity a patriotic slant, or a liberal slant, or black or white slant or a gay (LGBT) slant, or a feminist slant. They let the Bible speak for itself.
Right away, Goldilocks began to think of who she could invite. Many of her friends on campus were struggling with moral and spiritual issues. There was Little Red Riding Hood who had the weird habit of hanging out with wolves who dressed up like grandmothers. And Jack who had the expensive habit of selling valuable livestock for a handful of beans.
The moral? Jesus wanted his followers in the first churches to influence the world so whoever accepted him as savior and lord would be saved (Matthew 28:19-20). But unfortunately, just the opposite happened. The world influenced the church and this corrupted many churches and hindered the work of reaching out to the lost. Yet, some churches did remain faithful and became pathways for the salvation of the lost. Such churches are still being built. Goldilocks found one. There is one for each of us. If you feel you need to find such a church, call upon God in the name of Jesus and ask him to lead you to the body of believers he has prepared for you (Mark 11:22-24).
As for fairy tale endings, God promised something much better: an opportunity for all who surrender their lives to Christ to live happily ever after in heaven for an eternity.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
-Jesus in Matthew 11:28
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