For those of you who may or may not be aware, the common domesticated house cat is not, how you say, a fan of water. In fact, I can’t think of many things that cats detest more than submersion in good ole H2O. That being said, last night I had the extreme pleasure of bathing our domesticated feline, Mr. Smarty Pants, due to the increasing odor he was evidently not aware of. So I readied the tub, my will and began to attempt to bathe our cat. The only thing I forgot evidently was my medieval gauntlets with which to protect my forearms. So 10 minutes later the cat emerged sopping wet and smelling slightly better while I emerged traumatized and bleeding from a few nasty claw marks on my right arm. Needless to say it was a very successful venture.
At the end of the day though, we all know he needed the bath. It was something at that point we just couldn’t avoid. It kind of reminds me of conflict within the church. Now I’m not talking about arguments over worship, carpet color or kitchen responsibilities. For the most part these types of arguments don’t hold a lot of eternal significance. What I am referring to however is those times when we as the church forget what we are supposed to be about. You see, it’s really quite simple. We as the church are the physical embodiment of Christ. Soooo…when we don’t behave like Jesus, it might be time for a cat bath. When our behaviors misrepresent Jesus to the world outside the church, when our political ideologies malign those who need to hear the gospel, when our judgmental attitudes keep people from experiencing Christ, then it might be time for a cat bath. Jesus, the One we are supposed to be emulating, saw similar behavior amongst the “religious” folk of his day and he had this to say about it, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to…Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness.” – Matthew 23:13, 23
Now I’m not saying for you to just go and start picking fights in a holier than thou, gloves come off because I know how to be a better Jesus than you do fashion. But neither am I saying that we need to shy away from the tough conversations within our churches. We need to be willing to seek out the behaviors, actions, words, etc. in our midst that have us stinking up the name of Jesus and wash them out. It’s going to take grace and truth and we might even end up a little scratched up and bloodied. But isn’t the message of Christ important enough to make sure it’s shared as He would share it. So let’s do some self evaluation. Let’s do some church evaluation. Let’s take an honest look at ourselves and ask if we are truly being the Bride of Christ in the world. And if not…? Then get out the gauntlets (grace lined of course), it’s time for some cat baths.