Christ Comes in Cross and Conflict
Many people will use conflict or the sinful actions of some in the Church for a reason to distance themselves from the Church. They conclude: "With all the bad things that seem to happen when people get involved in a congregation, perhaps it is better just to stay home and read my Bible rather than risk such conflict and turmoil." Some will even go so far to cite examples of negative behavior as evidence of the ineffectiveness of the Gospel: "If what they were teaching were really true, they would certainly behave better."
In a sermon on "The Seizure of Christ in the Garden," Martin Luther uses the example of Judas to counter such claims. Would anyone dare say that Judas betrayed Jesus because Jesus is to blame? Could anyone honestly say that if our Lord would have taught him better things, Judas would not have committed so grievous a sin? No! The Lord is holy and righteous, and the enemy of every vice. The object of His teaching and preaching was to check and ward off sin and to save from sin. No, you wouldn't blame the Lord. You would have to conclude that what Judas did happened because he consistently rejected the Lord's admonitions and warnings. It happened because Satan used Judas in his attempt to stifle the Gospel. Luther then refers to “The Parable of the Tares”: "Satan hates the Gospel; men are by nature corrupt and inclined to evil; therefore Satan and the evil world have caused these offenses, so that the good seed, which is the pure, wholesome doctrine, might be despised by men."
Stay around the Church long enough, you’re bound to run into conflict, pettiness, and even outright evil. That shouldn't be surprising. The Church is filled with people like you and me who have been declared righteous, but still struggle with sin--our own sinful flesh, the allure of the world, and the temptations of Satan. There are hypocrites and scoundrels, wolves in sheep's clothing, and hirelings. There are many tares sown among the wheat.
But don’t let those “tares,” those “weeds” keep you away. Don't blame, Christ, His Church, or the Gospel for that which wicked men and Satan have done. For the Church is the place that Christ has promised to come to you with His grace, mercy, and love. There He sows His good seed--His pure, wholesome doctrine. There He feeds you with the bread of life—His Word and gives you His very body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening of your faith. There He equips you for forgiving your fellow sins and living out your faith through your vocation.
As He has always done, the Lord hides Himself in the weak and despised and common—even in the midst of the sin and pain—that He might bless His people. For confirmation of that you need look no further than the cross of
Calvary. For there in the midst of the great injustice, hate, evil, and death, you will find God's greater grace, love, righteousness, salvation, and eternal life.