Getting Real About Life, about Love, and about God
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
I love the church
"I love the Church."
There, I said it and I am not ashamed to say it.
There is absolutely nothing like the church when the church is working right. When the church (when I say church, I am talking about the community of followers of Jesus) is in line with the Spirit of God and receptive to the Spirit working in and through it, there is not a more beautiful thing. Lives are changed. Broken people are made whole. Forgiveness is found. Healing happens. Needs are met. People are released from things that have held them prisoner and captive. Love overcomes hate. Relationships are restored. Christ is revealed in real and tangible ways.
I also love the church even in those moments that we fall short of reflecting the love and light of Christ. You see, ever church is beautiful, every church has it moments when the individual people become less and Christ becomes more. Ever church has those moment when they align with the Spirit and God is made real through the community of followers. Every church is beautiful and every church has its ugliness. We are people. We are all sinners. We are people trying to live in community. We are all works in progress. We all have flaws and we all struggle. We are all trying to learn to live as the church.
Too often, we only want to see the beautiful side of the church. And honestly, I wish it was all that was seen. But the truth is every church, every place that God's people gather, is going to be beautiful and ugly. It is going to be Divine and human. It is going to have things that we are drawn too and things that repel us.
Here is what I have been discovering. In order for us to really be the radical community of followers that Jesus calls us to be there has to be both. We need the things that we don't like to help us to grow and to help us to understand what it means to live in community. It is in the weakness of God's people that He is made strong. It is when we love the one that is difficult for us to love, or persecutes, us or disappoints us, or causes ugliness that we begin to understand and grow in Christ like love. Maybe, God uses the ugliness to humble us and to grow us so we reflect his love in a world that just runs away from community when it gets difficult? Maybe, it is in our ugliness that the trans-formative power of Grace is actually seen in the church? Maybe, our ugliness is the place that we learn the most about what it means to follow Jesus and to be the community that Christ calls us to be?
Too often when ugliness is seen in the church people say that is all that there is and they forget that the church is also beautiful in many other ways. They don't look at it as an opportunity to grow to be more like Christ and they turn away from the church and say "they are a bunch of hypocrites." "they only care about themselves." Some will look for a church where that ugliness is not readily seen. They will be happy at the new church until they see the ugliness that is there. And if they keep shopping for the perfect church they will never find it and all the while the opportunity that God is giving to discover the community he desires is lost, because we never work through the things that build Christ centered community. We are beauty obsessed and it robs us of loving the other and being loved by the other.
But even worse, some folks will pull away from the church all together. They will say things like, "I love Jesus but I hate the church." "I will follow Jesus on my own, by myself." We then miss out on all the beauty. We throw out the baby with the bath water. The ugliness wins, and consumes us. Created for community we isolate ourselves from the very thing that we are created for. We stunt are growth in Christ because we completely turn away from the classroom of living in relationship with God and others.
Every church is beautiful and every church has it's ugliness Big ones. Little ones. City ones. Country ones. All churches are beautiful and they all have their ugliness. Both are there and if you spend enough time around the church you will see both aspects. I have spent enough time in enough churches to know this and to have fallen in love with the church. I love the church warts and all. The important thing is to see the ugliness for what it is. It could be the thing that helps us to most be God's people and to reflect his love to the world. It should not be the thing that we focus on, it should be the thing that we constantly surrender and give to God so that he might be made strong and we become more like him. Our focus she be on the beauty. The beauty is what we need to remember when are feelings are hurt. The beauty is what we need to remember when we have disagreements. The beauty, which is Christ, is what ultimately will be seen if we will give our brokenness to God.
I love the church. This is you. I love you.
In Christ's love and mine,