Then his disciples asked what the [parable of the sower] meant. Jesus said, "To you, the kingdom of God has been made clear; but to others I speak in parables, so that ‘looking they may not perceive, and listening they may not understand.'" - Luke 8:9-10
Just when I thought I had heard every possible reason why many nominally Christian folk avoid church, a good friend divulged this: "I would go to church, but I don't like Jesus all that much."
I was astounded. I mean, what's not to like, and love, about Jesus? So I asked.
"He's confusing," she said.
It's true. The passage above suggests that Jesus was, at times, intentionally cryptic.
My friend wasn't finished dropping bombshells.
"And often, when he makes sense, I find I don't agree."
As startling as it was to hear out loud, I understood this too. There's more than a few teachings of Jesus that ruffle my feathers like forgiving enemies, giving away all my stuff, and not cherishing opinions (a.k.a. judging), for starters.
Instead of agreeing with her, I croaked out a one-sentence sermon on the Christian call to see and live very differently blah, blah, blah.
"Sure," she said, "and when I find a church that does, maybe I'll go."
Well that shut me up. Hypocrisy is an all too common and convenient reason for avoiding church. And yet it reminded me that Jesus would be less confusing, and the church more attractive, if his followers were more committed.
Jesus, may your clear and unfathomable grace always shine more brightly than our abundant failures.
Matt Laney is the Senior Pastor of Virginia Highland Church UCC in Atlanta, GA and the author of Pride Wars, a fantasy series publishe by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers. The first book, The Spinner Prince available now.