I used to go to a church where the people prided themselves in being all the right things. They were all staunchly devoted to the principles that they said "made this country great." They went to Sunday School and some of the leaders taught. They upheld all of the liturgical and seasonal practices that had gone on for many years in that congregation. They were everything they were expected to be in a church in that community and in that region. But at church meetings, you had better lock down all the furniture! They were spiteful, abusive and they were ready and willing to demean other people to get their own way.
As a new person I asked myself several questions. How could people who followed Jesus behave like that? How could a 'church' support the hurting of other people? How could Christians be so quick to assume bad motives, assert accusatory rhetoric and assail other people? I think there is a very good reason these things happen and they stem from a passage everyone of those so-called Christian people could quote on the spot. John 3:16 (you know it) says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life!" You might ask, "Randy, what does that have to do with misbehaving church people and nasty board meetings?" Glad you asked!
There is a little word in John 3:16 that we miss. It is short, of little consequence and it gets lost in the bigger and more important words. It is the word "in." In the Greek this word can be translated in or into and we (to be correct in the English) should maybe translate it 'into', because that is what Jesus means here. "Don't just believe I exist ... believe into my teaching, leading and ministry!" "Don't just think I was a great teacher in 1st century Israel ... believe I am God's one and only Son!." "Don't memorize my words and think you have done something ... apply them, suffer for them, bleed for them, struggle with them and wrap your arms around them as you would hold a child you love!"
Do you believe Jesus is the truth? Then apply His words by loving, being gentle, edifying the Church. Do you believe Jesus is the way? Then follow Him to inevitable suffering, inevitable pain and inevitable eternal life (I love that last one). Do you believe Jesus is the life? Then give the words He taught more power in your life. So we speak to other people with grace and we treat other people with kindness, gentleness, self-control, joy, patience, peace and love. My former church taught me all the wrong things about being a follower of Jesus but, thank the Lord, Jesus didn't quit teaching and leading me. I still get it wrong sometimes and have to eat my words, go to another person and tell them I have been a bonehead or ask another person to forgive me. But I am letting these episodes teach me so they become fewer and fewer. I long for the day when they are no longer part of my life ... I hope you do too! Randy