Undoing the Stereotype
9 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us [r]to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.
Type casting is when an actor or actress is repeatedly given the same kinds of roles in movies because they have been stereotyped. Usually they have played a particular kind of role so often that it’s difficult for people to see them any other way. Tom Cruise almost always plays the cocky hero. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is the steely-eyed human superhero. Jim Carrey is seldom anything but a zany goofball. And Morgan Freeman…how often have you seen him play the wise old sage? These actors have been cast in these roles so many times that we begin to view them through the lens of those roles and have difficulty imagining them as anything else.
In many ways, the church has been similarly type casted. In both movies and in life the church is often portrayed as a contentious bunch of close-minded, calloused-hearted judgmental hypocrites. We depicted as people who care little for the needs of others but are obsessed with our own issue-driven agendas. We shown as people who project perfection in public but whose lives are twisted and sordid in private. And while this type casting is not accurate, it isn’t new either. Not only is it not fair, it’s frustrating. And so the million dollar question is: how do we undo the stereotype? Here are some thoughts:
First, let’s make sure we know what the church is. The church is a group of people who are being transformed by the grace of Jesus. The church is a community who not only have fallen short and found forgiveness, but we have also found a different way of living: the Jesus way. We do not hold unreachable expectations for others, we hold hope for them. When you talk about our church, remember who we are.
Second, let’s be honest about our imperfections. Those outside the church need us to be genuine about our shortcomings; we need to be willing to admit our struggles and failures. Can you imagine if the church was perfect? Can you imagine the pressure for an outsider to walk into a church full of squeaky clean over-achievers? They would be completely and utterly intimidated to even speak or fellowship with a group like that. Our imperfections are a reason to praise God for those imperfections make us approachable and more understanding to unbelievers.
Finally, let’s love the church just as Jesus loves the church. If you are going to love anyone, you have to commit to love them despite their shortcomings and imperfections. You will never have a perfect spouse. You will never have a perfect child. Your closest companions will always be flawed people. And yet, we love them all dearly. There is no love that doesn’t see past flaws. Let’s commit to love as we are loved.