In 1966, a young soul singer named Jimmy Ruffin sang of the heart-break that comes when dreams are broken.
“As I walk this land with broken dreams
I have visions of many things
But happiness is just an illusion
Filled with sadness and confusion
What becomes of the broken-hearted
Who had love that’s now departed?
I know I’ve got to find
Some kind of peace of mind
His song was a reflection of the heart-break that can follow disillusioned young love, but many Christians today are also facing heart-break: the heart-break which can come when we too are disillusioned and our first love for Christ is lost or has drained away.
Jesus said many things which cut across our ways of thinking, but one of his first recorded sayings is also one of the strangest.
“Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted”( Mat Ch 5 v4)
Such sayings, even when spoken by the Son of God, are hard to receive when we are experiencing the condition, which they are addressing. When we are mourning, it does not seem appropriate to be classified as ‘blessed’ – whatever we might understand that to mean.
There are no accurate statistics to support various claims that substantial numbers of Christians have stopped going to church, because they have either lost their first love for Jesus, or they have become disillusioned with church. However, few of us will not know folk who appear to fit one or other of those categories, and some of us will fit in there ourselves.
I consider myself one of the fortunate ones who, having lost my first love for Jesus, and who, having been thoroughly disillusioned with church, have actually found peace of mind and discovered the blessedness promised by Jesus.
Jesus has comforted my own mourning by revealing that he, and he alone is life and reality. When he was on earth, the only people that Jesus really slammed into were those who were hypocrites. In his days, they were mainly scribes and Pharisees: those who made a good show outwardly, but who were dead inwardly. If he were to walk the earth today, he would not be beating those who are mourning a lack of reality, but those who claim to have it but who offer no more than an illusion of it.
Outward appearance is of little significance in the true Church, whatever shape or form it might take. The Pharisees were lavish in their gifts, prayers, and pomp and ceremony, but Jesus called them “whited sepulchres”– that is fancy tombstones with nothing but a corpse on the inside. The sort of person whom Jesus singled out for praise was a widow who gave all her money into God’s treasury. I suspect that many a church, even a good evangelical charismatic church would send her on a debt-counselling course to learn how to budget properly, rather than commending her and then inviting her round for a meal.
I am encouraged knowing that Jesus hates the hype and pretence that I have learned to hate. If you are truly fed up with pretence in church, please be encouraged: accept that as a step toward the blessedness that Jesus promised. We are to love the church, and to love it passionately, but we are also called to reject that which is no more than an outward show. What we desperately need is the wisdom and discernment to know the difference. The first step toward that is to examine ourselves and ask God to strip off our own facades. Once we see our own poverty we begin to realise that is a blessed place to be and we can encourage each other to rediscover reality.
*What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC