On his Monday Morning Devotional Blog, a Wesleyan pastor and good friend of mine, Lenny Luchetti, has posed the question in regards to the church, “Why bother?” What are the reasons you feel you can’t live with the church, and what are the reasons you can’t live without the church? I gave him this response…
Why I sometimes feel like I CAN’T LIVE WITH the church:
Because people in the church can sometimes be the most judgmental, uncaring people in the world.
Why I feel like I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT the church:
Because the relationships that God has given us in the church are the testing grounds where God allows his Holy Spirit to mold us into the people he wants us to be. In other words, God intends the saving and renewing relationship that he has with us to be experienced in the midst of other really crummy people who are at various stages of experiencing the benefits of relationship with God. If I can’t humble myself and love my brothers and sisters in the face of judgmental attitudes within the church, how can I follow Christ’s command to love my enemies who are outside the church?
I often reflect on marriage in the same way. The marriage bond is the closest of human relationships, and it is the place where the furnace can burn hottest to destroy the impurities in our own hearts, but it is also the place where we receive the greatest support and encouragement to go on. And that’s what the church is, the bride of Christ. And it’s within the community called ‘church’ where the Spirit of Christ purifies us like fire, but also motivates, equips, and encourages us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Those two greatest of commands are inseparable. We can’t love God if we aren’t loving our brothers and sisters in the church. And a sign that we are loving God is that we are putting the needs of our brothers and sisters before our own.
So the church–as ugly as it can sometimes appear with all it’s fallen sinful humanity–is beautiful in God’s sight because Jesus is redeeming his people for himself. I could despise the church for all the ugliness of sinful humanity that is still present within her, but to do so would be to ignore my own faults and need for a Savior. Thus, to reject the church is to reject the only One who is able to save that church and me.
So what would you say?