If we were to survey professing Christians about how they feel about the Church, we would find mixed responses. Many of them would display disillusionment with the Church, frustration with people in the Church, and list reasons why the Church isn’t working for them. Many of them spoke of negative experience in churches as the basis of their leaving.
Many people feel that the Church just isn’t getting anything right, that it isn’t serving its purpose as a “hospital for the sinner” or as a place where folks could feel good about themselves. The problem is, the Church isn’t supposed to be either of those things.
Once we begin expecting things of the Church that the Church isn’t supposed to deliver we’re going to be disillusioned and disappointed If we expect the Church to do something for us that it wasn’t designed to do, it won’t be the most pleasant place for us.
We all need to step back, readjust our expectations and think of the Church as Jesus thinks of her. What is the Church?
The Church is the Body of Christ
“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member but many” (1 Corinthians 12:12-14).
This truth destroys any idea of Christian autonomy. If you are a member of the spiritual Church, a Christian, then you must function within the prescribed environment of the Body. If a finger decided it didn’t like the hand it was connected to and cut itself off, what happens to the finger? It dies, and the body loses an important function. In the same way, a member of the Body of Christ cannot sever itself simply because the Body isn’t what he or she thinks it should be. We have no choice anymore. Christ Himself, the Head of the Body, will not separate from it; how could we?
The Church is the Bride of Christ
“I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion” (Hosea 2:19).
If being members of the Body demands our unity, then being members of the Bride demands our love. Look at the Cross and see the terrible bride price that Jesus paid for His Church. In the shadow of the Cross, how can we then turn to our brothers and sisters and decide that we cannot love them? We are collectively the Bride of Christ. In separating ourselves from the Church to a degree we separate ourselves from Him. We’re saying that His love isn’t worth our time or patience.
The Church is the Child of God
Romans 8:15 “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”
If being the Body demands our unity and being the Bride demands our love, then being the Child demands our humility. A human father will not stand to have rivalries and deep-seated disputes among his children, much less God Himself. We have to behave childlike, not childish. We have to pray for and cultivate childlike deference to one another, as hard as it is to get along with some people.
If one person in particular in the church tends to push your buttons, remember that in the eyes of your Father there is no difference between you. Love them and pray for the grace to love them. God will not stand for any rifts in His family. Christ’s blood and sacrifice are far too precious for that.