Have you ever heard that saying?
“You can’t polish a turd.”
It’s always made me laugh.
The visual imagery of polishing a turd is just ludicrous – and certainly disgusting!
But we all know circumstances in life where this saying is sadly all to applicable.
The biggest one I can think of is the way many leaders run their churches.
I’ve had the privilege of traveling to several hundred churches over the last couple of years.
What I’ve found is that many pastors are aware of the radical message of grace.
They know that the New Testament teaches grace is God’s only answer to sin.
Yet they find themselves terrified of actually putting all their eggs in that basket.
Many find preaching true freedom too scary an idea.
Because there is a prevailing belief that when you preach living by grace alone, people will start sinning.
Far too many pastors have “tried” grace and seen a few people sin and quickly slammed the door on the experiment.
A message of law, sprinkled with a little bit of grace, produces a much cleaner looking church (in their opinion).
But freedom doesn’t cause people to sin.
The law does.
Rom 5:20 states – “the purpose of the law was to increase sin”
Rom 7:13 states – “the law makes you sinful beyond measure”
1 Cor 15:56 states – “the strength of sin is the law”
(For more on the law check out “What’s the Role of the Law in the New Covenant”
They might not have outwardly shown it but it was in their hearts all along.
What Jesus had to say
Jesus talks about this in His sermon on the mount.
He challenged people by saying:
“You probably think you are doing well not committing adultery… but if you’ve looked at a woman you are guilty of adultery.”
“You might think your doing great having not killed anyone… but if you get angry in your heart with someone you are just as guilty of murder.”
He exposed that while the law might appear to hide sin it doesn’t deal with it.
The issue is still there and just as bad whether there is an outward manifestation of it or not.
I often ask leaders, what would you prefer?
- A nice and squeaky clean looking church that is rotten to the core.
- Where people seem great on Sunday morning but are hoping nobody finds out about their darkest secrets.
- Where people talk of love and honour but have hatred in their hearts and lustful wondering eyes.
- And worst of all – they have to deal with it themselves because we don’t want to know!
- A messy appearing church where some people make mistakes and sin.
- But the people are honest.
- They are open about their failings and on a journey with God allowing His grace to transform them from the inside out.
- Not only that but you can see what’s going on in their lives and come alongside them practically where they need help.
What would you pick?
The truth is that far too many leaders – for fear of the consequences of having a “messy” church opt for the first option.
There are hundreds of reasons behind this.
Many of them genuinely feel they are making the right decision for the church.
Many others however know the truth but aren’t willing to lose face over having a church that doesn’t fit the status quo.
Ultimately though it boils down to this:
We don’t really believe what Jesus said – that sin in the heart is as bad as sin in the “flesh”.
We would rather people had sinful hearts so long as it didn’t spill over into our lives and we had to face it.
Back to the “turd”
Paul in his letter to the Philippians said:
“I consider all that the law has gained me to be skybalon”
What does skybalon mean?
It means crap, dung, rubbish… that’s right “turd”.
In fact – many manuscripts show us that it was an expletive… it’s even found in ancient graffiti!
It would be our equivalent of… well I’ll leave it to you to figure out as I’ve already probably offended some people by saying “turd”.
Paul says to the Philippians that the things the law gained him are what He counts to be crap.
You’ve two choices
Leaders in the church, we have two options before us:
We can pretend that our churches are Christian and keep peddling the law as if Jesus was nothing more than a piece of duct tape to Judaism.
We can embrace the gospel and actually step into what Christ has for us as a church.
It’s our choice…
Will we stand up for what the gospel teaches and embrace the mess that might come when broken people are allowed to be broken before God that He might help them?
Or will we pretend that our churches are full of perfect people while behind the scenes they waste away in sin?
Will we keep polishing that turd?