"A good name is more desirable than great riches;to be esteemed is better than silver or gold" (Proverbs 22:1, NIV).
This week, I was talking about my faith in Christ with two of my co-workers. Soon one asked, "What church do you go to?" I let them know that I was a member of a Church of Christ. One co-worker responded, "Isn't that the church that believes it's the only one going to heaven?" The other one said, "Well, my sister-in-law is a member of the Church of Christ, and she certainly believes I'm going to hell."
I was ashamed. I was not ashamed of Jesus Christ or his message, but I was ashamed of the reputation that we have earned. The Churches of Christ are known for being arrogant, self-righteous, and judgmental. In choosing to call ourselves "Churches of Christ," we have sought to honor Jesus Christ. In the way we have treated others, we have come close to blaspheming his name (if we have not actually crossed that line in too many instances).
So what do we do about our bad reputation? A publicity campaign would be unconvincing. Claiming that we have been misunderstood would be a lie; we have been understood all too well.
We must repent. Our mindset must change. We need to humble ourselves, realize our need for God's grace, admit our sins and failures, ask for forgiveness, and commit to extending kindness rather than condemnation to other people. We do not have it all together, and we must admit it to each other and to everyone else. We must trust in Christ who alone has it all together.
It took several decades for the Churches of Christ to develop our bad reputation. It will not change quickly. In fact, it will not change at all unless we are changed at the core of our character. (A significant number of churches have realized this problem and are in the process of repenting already.)
Please forgive me for contributing to our bad reputation and for dishonoring the name of Christ by being arrogant, self-righteous, and judgmental. I want to be a better follower of Jesus than I have been.