As the old joke goes, the preacher says “None of us is perfect. Are any of you perfect?”
A fellow in the back pew raises his hand.
Preacher asks, “Do you think you are perfect, brother?”
Man says, “No. I was just raising my hand on behalf of my wife’s first husband.”
I’ve got more, but I will spare you.
Seriously, though, some folks know they should be in church but feel less than perfect, so they put it off. As Abigail Van Buren, known as Dear Abby for her practical-column advice, once stated: “Church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.”
The Prophet Joseph Smith said that “none ever were perfect but Jesus; and why was He perfect? Because He was the Son of God, and had the fullness of the Spirit, and greater power than any man.”
When Christ taught the Sermon on the Mount and said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” it was with a view to the eternities and an invitation to us to be yoked with His perfect self (Matthew 5:48).
Some folks say they stay away from church because there are too many hypocrites there. The clever response, of course, is that there is always room for one more.
I have been attending the Wollochet Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for 25 years now, and what I find there is a lot of good people and good families trying to live as Jesus taught. No perfect people, mind you, but from what I can see, these people are doing their best to live what they profess without hypocrisy.
It is evident in their kindness and in their conduct, in their service to others, that Jesus Christ is the basis of their faith and their lives. I love their example.
“Come, follow me,” the Lord invited.
The time comes for many who have stayed away, when the desire to return to church overcomes pride or hurt feelings or offenses taken or whatever has kept them away.
Perhaps it is the love shown by brothers and sisters of the church, with kind and continuous invitations to come back into the fold.
Perhaps it is the desire, finally, to be square with God.
Perhaps it is the realization that, through Christ, they can forgive and be forgiven, because “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.”
“Jesus was the greatest church leader of all,” taught church educator Jack R. Christianson, “and he came to serve us. He even called us his friends, if we will just do what he has asked us to do: ‘This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you’” (John 15:12-15).
I have seen the joy of repentance and the peace of being forgiven, in the eyes and on the countenances of my fellow members.
I have felt that joy myself. I have seen rekindled faith in action.
I can’t speak for other faiths, but I can say thank heavens for inspired bishops who are called by revelation and commissioned to serve the members of their LDS congregations in righteousness and as representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ, whose church it is.
“The acceptance of the reality that we are in the Lord’s loving hands,” said the late Apostle Neal A. Maxwell, “is only a recognition that we have never really been anywhere else.”
May we recognize that blessing in 2013, and may we be found serving one another in church.On Faith columnist Alfred Gunn can be reached by email at email@example.com.