Why You Must Learn to Separate God from the Church


AUDIO VERSION: YouTube  Podbean

Maybe your pastor ran off with the church secretary. Maybe the church treasurer stole a bunch of money. Maybe the worship leader made a play for your wife. Maybe the whole congregation is spreading slander about you. Maybe the evangelist on television conned you into giving him all your money. Maybe your priest molested you. When the Church treats us badly, the common response is to see her actions as the actions of God, and here is where the problem lies. Because while God will most certainly use the Church to cause you problems in life, the Church is just a tool to Him, she’s not His incarnation. When you merge the Church and God into a single entity in your mind, you end up in a major mess. Unfortunately, this is what a lot of humans do: they see the Church as an extension of God Himself, and they then try to use the actions and motivations of humans to understand who God is. If your pastor is kind, God must be kind. If your pastor is a jerk, then obviously God is a jerk. If your priest can’t be trusted, then God can’t be trusted. If other Christians exclude you, then God must be excluding you. This whole line of logic is seriously flawed, and if you insist on clinging to it, you’re going to end up in Hell. Why? Because God isn’t going to let you write Him off because you refused to acknowledge who He is.

Do you want to be judged by the way your family members behave? When Cousin James is staggering around drunk and shouting idiotic things at the top of his lungs, do you want the whole neighborhood to decide you’re as obnoxious as he is? When your rebellious brother Mike lands in jail for committing a crime, would you find it fair for the judge to make you pay the same penalty as him? In this world, humans have decided that it is perfectly acceptable to condemn God based on the actions of human beings. Well, what kind of sense does this make? How do we possibly justify saying that God must be a clone of the humans He has created? God has created rocks, fish, and stars, as well, but we don’t try to say He’s any of those things. You wouldn’t look at a mountain and say, “Now I know all there is to know about God,” yet you look at Christians acting like jerks and say, “If that’s what God is like, I don’t want anything to do with Him.” What kind of sense does this make? God is not a human being. He’s a totally different kind of Being—one which you won’t find any clone of in this world. So when you compare God to a human, you might as well be comparing a cat to a pair of headphones.

Suggesting that mere mortals are the equivalent of God is utterly absurd, and that is what you’re doing when you get all huffy with God because of the way His followers treated you. If you’re going to blame God for something, you need to blame Him for stuff that He actually did. If you’re going to judge Him, you need to judge Him according to His motivations, not according to the motivations of those who claim to follow God. The mere fact of loving Christ will never cause a human to morph into a non-human. If you love chocolate with all of your heart and soul, will that cause you to morph into a candy bar? Of course not, and no matter how sincerely Christians love Christ, they will never morph into His clones. In this world, there will always be vast differences between Christ and His followers. So if you want to know Christ, you have to pursue Christ directly, you can’t just hang out with people who claim to know Him.

Talk is cheap. People read gossip about some politician, then they act like they really know the man when the truth is that they don’t know him at all. In the same way, a lot of Christians claim to be experts on God, but most of what they say about Him is a bunch of baloney. If you spend your life condemning God because of what a bunch of humans said about Him, do you think He’s going to just smile and pat you on the head and let you into Heaven when you die? Not hardly. God will judge you based on how you responded to Him directly, and when you judge God based on how His followers behave, are you listening to Him? Are you showing Him one ounce of respect? No, you’re being a defiant little rebel—that’s how He’s going to see it. You see, “I hate Christians” isn’t a valid excuse for hating God.

God is a very gracious Guy. He knows that there are aspects of Him that you’re going to find extremely upsetting and threatening. God doesn’t have a problem with you working through some periods of hating His guts as long as your reasons for hating Him are valid. God is very patient, and He puts up with a whole lot of bratittude from His kids when He knows they’re honestly struggling to deal with Him. But this business of you acting like God and humans are one and the same? No, that doesn’t work. When you refuse to separate God from humans, you’re just playing games.

Suppose a wife walks into a coffee shop and sees her husband kissing one of her coworkers. The wife represents you, the husband represents God, and the coworker represents a Christian or group of Christians who have hurt you in the past. The wife now has to decide how she is going to respond to this situation. The wife has a relationship with her coworker, but clearly that relationship is not as important as her relationship with her own husband. Because of this kissing business, the wife now has problems in two relationships in her life—there have been major violations of trust. So how will she respond?

Suppose the wife decides to slip away before she is seen. She goes home, and when her husband comes home that evening, the wife acts like everything is fine. But when she goes to work the next morning, she really lays into her coworker, and blames her for the entire situation. This is the way most Christians respond when God does something painful to them. They refuse to acknowledge His involvement and they entirely blame whatever human He used to create the crisis in their lives. Christians like to pretend that “God is good” means that “God can’t be associated with anything bad.” Does this kind of response please God? No, it does not, because it reeks of dishonesty. When our woman walked into the coffee shop, she saw two adults voluntarily kissing each other. Her husband clearly has a share of the responsibility in creating the crisis, and since her relationship with her husband is the critical one, the wife should consider resolving things with him to be far more important than resolving things with her coworker.

Now suppose when the wife confronts her coworker, the coworker says, “Your husband doesn’t care one wit about you. He’s been having an affair with me for a year. He’ll laugh when he finds out that you saw us because he doesn’t care about your feelings any more than I do!” When the wife hears this, she believes every word and then divorces her husband and swears that she’ll never forgive him. This is how many non-Christians react when God hurts them using people: they refuse to ever hear His side of the story, and instead they believe whatever the humans say about Him. Your pastor tells you that God hates gays and you just take his word for it, then decide that you hate God. You never bothered to ask God Himself if your pastor was right, you just let some human put words in His mouth. Do you think there’s some sin you’ve committed which God will never forgive? Why do you think this? Because of what some human has told you? Because of what you’ve read online or in the Bible? God is not a human. God is not a book. Before you decide that you know something about God, you need to ask Him directly. Until you’ve gone direct, you don’t know anything for sure, you’re just letting a bunch of rumors and theories about God define your relationship with Him. Well, God finds this annoying—wouldn’t you? After all, God created your brain—are you really going to try and say that He isn’t smart enough to communicate with you?

God is very interested in teaching you the truth about Him, but He’s certainly not going to beg and plead while you stand with your back towards Him. If you want to know the truth about how God views you, you need to ask Him to show you. Then you need to wait for Him to answer you, and you need to leave room for the possibility that His answer might be totally different than what you expect.

The sad reality is that most Christians do not know their God very well at all. This means that much of what they teach and preach is just plain wrong. How are you ever going to sort out the truth from the lies if you don’t talk to God? And why should God talk to you if you’re refusing to respect Him enough to actually listen to what He has to say about Himself? You crack open a Bible, rip one line that Jesus said out of context and say, “See? Now I know God.” No, now you’ve read one sentence in a book that you’re probably totally misunderstanding. When God haters go sifting through the Old Testament isolating every nasty sounding thing God said to people centuries ago, they’re intentionally ignoring all of the nice things He said and did. This is like us filming some thirty second clip of you losing your temper on a really bad day and then saying, “What an unreasonable jerk.” Does God have a temper? He most certainly does. Can He be violent? Oh, yes. Does He really throw people into Hell and torture them there forever? Absolutely. But He also takes people to Heaven. He also comforts and heals people. He is infinitely more compassionate and loving than the best of human beings. If you refuse to listen to Him, are you ever going to get an accurate understanding of Him? Of course not.

Your pastor isn’t God. Your pastor is a human, and all humans have issues. When your pastor’s issues get all over you, you’re going to need help healing from the pain it causes. God wants to give you that help. God certainly used your pastor to bring problems into your life, but God is not your pastor, and He doesn’t have your pastor’s issues. Your pastor’s reasons for doing what he did to you are entirely different than God’s reasons for letting your pastor do what he did. God is a straightforward Guy, and unlike you, He doesn’t try to always whitewash Himself and downplay His involvement in a matter. God will use people to stick it to you in life, but His reasons for doing so will be to help you, not just mess you up. When your pastor lies to you about tithing just to steal your money, your pastor isn’t trying to help you, he’s trying to use you and cheat you. So where was God while you were falling for this classic Christian con job? He was there. He knew what was going on. He could have spoken up and warned you before you wrote that check, but He didn’t. Why didn’t He? You need to ask Him. Don’t just project your pastor’s shady motivations onto God because your pastor is not God.

Or maybe you find out that your wife is having an affair with the worship pastor. How does a worship pastor act like such a sleaze? Because he’s a human being, and humans have issues. Knowing God doesn’t make us non-human. So what do you do now? You’re very angry and hurt. God wants to help you with that. Well, why should you talk to a sleaze like God? Because God is not a sleaze. The worship pastor and your wife might be acting pretty sleazy and maybe they just don’t care about your feelings. But God does care, because God is not a human. God has His own reasons for allowing this situation to develop, and He has reasons for keeping you in the dark. Those reasons are not as nasty as you’re assuming they are, because all you’re thinking about is human motivations, and God is not a human.

If you want to end up on the right side of God, the day must come when you move Him into a separate mental category from all of His followers. You need to relate to God on a separate channel. You can’t just go through humans to interface with Him because despite what humans say, they are not God’s authorized representatives on earth. God represents Himself. God speaks for Himself. Any pastor or teacher who’s doing it right is going to be encouraging you to develop your own, direct connection with God instead of trying to insist on being His interpreter in your life. God is not a human, and no human can fill in for Him in your life. Humans can talk about God, but much of what they say about Him will be wrong. They can share their experiences of God, but much of what they label as “God” isn’t God at all, but other things which they are mistaking for Him.

The Bible isn’t God. The Church isn’t God. Only God is God, and if you’re refusing to seek Him directly, it’s time to own up to that fact and realize that you are going to be held accountable for this intentional avoidance. No matter how heinously your priest treated you, God is not your priest, and He isn’t going to let you use the actions of a human as an excuse to write Him off. Certainly God will hurt you in life, and when He does, the two of you are going to do some intense wrestling. God wants total honesty from you, and that means there will be times when you are cussing Him out, giving Him the cold shoulder, and throwing a tantrum because you can’t stand the way He’s running your life. But because God is not a human, you will greatly benefit from the fact that He isn’t going to write you off as fast as humans will.

You might not like the fact that God has so many jerks among His followers, but the fact that this is so just demonstrates what a gracious God He is. God doesn’t just love the cream of humanity—He loves us all. He accepts us when we’re still immature little punks. He embraces us when we’re all sleazy and slimy. If God only ever accepted your idea of the ideal Christian, He’d never look twice at you. He’d never look twice at any of us, and then where would be? But ours is a Creator who does not abandon the works of His hands. He wades through the sewage of our own depravity with us. He comes with us when we hit rock bottom, and He is the only reason any of us every pull up again. No, God’s followers aren’t perfect, but He is, and He is the One you should be pursuing a relationship with. Humans are never going to be able to fully satisfy you—that’s a given. But God can, and He will if you sincerely seek Him. God doesn’t have some rule that you can never be mad at Him. God doesn’t say you have to clean yourself up before He’ll consider talking to you. God will take you as you are, and He’ll help you work through all of your issues one step at a time if you are willing to submit to His Authority and be honest with Him. But if you keep using the Church as an excuse to reject who God is, and if you keep using the depravity of humans as an excuse to never listen to God or respect His Authority as the One who holds your atoms together, well, what do you think He’s going to say to that?