(This is the first post in a new series of posts I’ll be writing from time to time on what it means to love the church)
I love Oreos…there I said it. I also really love Chicken Nuggets from McDangerous, and I have often said that at the times in your life when you want cookies or chicken, you don’t really want Oreos and Chicken Nuggets…but sometimes, you REALLY want Oreos and Chicken Nuggets (or at least I do).
So what, right?
Well, it seems to me that many people today think about church the way that I think about Chicken Nuggets. Sometimes I want the real thing (chicken), but other times, I just want to have something that tastes really good, even though it may be killing me on the inside…
So many people today have a love for the church that is good and right, even if they don’t really know they do, but the problem is that this love they have is always competing with another, their love for chicken nuggets. Er, I mean, their love for those things that look like the church, but really aren’t.
I hope I’m making sense.
My point is that when it comes to church (which is more important than anyone’s McEating habits), we should work hard to make sure that what we want, and what we are getting, is the real thing. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be deceived, either by our sinful nature or by wrong teaching from others, when it comes to what a good church looks like. Instead, we should train our proverbial “taste buds” for finding that which is good and right to be that which we find most satisfying. In other words, we should learn to call Christ’s Bride beautiful.
Do you find the church to be beautiful? Do you love the church for the reasons Jesus loves the church? Or, do you instead, love something that you pretend is the church? Do you love your own idea of what church is, just like I love chicken nuggets (even though they can hardly be said to be made of chicken)?
One of the things that I hate seeing today is all this business about “loving Jesus, but hating the church”. How is that possible? How can you love Jesus, and yet hate those whom he says he loves and even “gave himself up” for (Eph 5:25)?
The short answer is – you can’t.
Being a christian, in part, means being a member of that one body that Christ died to save. And it means not simply just being a part of it, but loving it.
John said it even more plainly and controversially:
“Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.” 1 John 2:9
“We know that we have passed out of death into life, BECAUSE we love the brothers.” 1 John 3:14
And yet, today, it’s so common to see people speak about how they won’t step foot inside a church, because they don’t like christians. They say that they are burnt out on the hypocrisy and fake-ness of christians. They say they’ve been hurt too many times to be able to give the church another chance. I heard just a story a few days ago of a lady who was frustrated at the poor handling of a controversy in the church (which happens all too often). The poor lady was hurt, and deeply saddened at the outcome of the whole ordeal, and all of that is understandable, but her response is what’s most concerning. She said “if this is what church is, then I don’t want any part of it.”
I wished so badly that I could have been there to speak with her at that moment, because all I wanted to say is “this IS what church is, and if you are a christian, then you are already a part of it.”
That’s the truth – the church is messed up, it is broken, it is hurting, it is hypocritical, it is ill-tempered, it is judgmental and condemning…and if you are a christian, then you are only adding to that list. The church is flawed and sinful beyond imagination.
It is also beautiful!
Christ’s bride is not yet what he’s sanctifying her to be – she is not yet without spot or blemish, and yet, because of what Jesus did on the cross, she has been washed clean, and counted as righteous, and redeemed.
And each and every christian is a part of that. Both the beautiful and the ugly. And we must love her for all she is, because our Savior loves her like that. The gospel is that EVEN THOUGH we were hypocritical, and judgmental, and too quickly offended, and too quick to bail out on relationships, and cruel, and hard-hearted, and angry…yet “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!”
That poor woman thought she wanted chicken, but she was addicted to the taste of chicken nuggets. She had formed in her mind, and developed a taste for, a false image of what the church is. And when it wasn’t what her mind thought it should be, then it wasn’t beautiful to her anymore.
I wish I could’ve been there to counsel her with the gospel, the good news that the church is beautiful, not because of what we’ve done or how well we’ve performed, but because we’ve been clothed in the beautiful righteousness of our savior! It would be a dangerous thing to tell a man that his wife is ugly, and it is a dangerous thing to do so to Jesus, and I don’t think that woman was doing that intentionally, but she is just a wonderful example of so many today who refuse to see the church how Christ see it, and because of that, they hate it.
Please don’t think though, that I think this excuses those terrible behavior’s among christians and in local churches, it doesn’t, and it is something that needs to be both called out and repented of. But, those things do not make the church ugly, they do not make Christ’s bride less beautiful. In fact, if we believe the bible, then we know that God is using even the many failings of his people to sanctify them and make them more like him. So, Christ’s bride is actually getting MORE beautiful each and every moment. Through every controversy, through every sin where the church is involved, God is using those things to present the church “blameless, and without wrinkle or spot!”
I also should say that not all controversy that surrounds the church actually involves christians. Many times there are people who aren’t christians, but only outwardly profess to be, and they do much harm to the name of Christ. But, that isn’t all of it, there is still plenty of sin and hypocrisy and evil that even christians take part in, and yet – Christ’s bride is beautiful.
Yes I know that oftentimes the church IS like those Chicken Nuggets – a terrible impersonator of what it claims to be, but we know the whole truth. We know that the problem lies within us, our “tastebuds” just need to get acclimated to the truth. We have a picture in our mind of what is right, but when we hold that picture up to the light of the Word, we find that what we thought we were loving was actually the impersonator. And that impersonator, and those chicken nuggets, are nothing compared to the real thing, though it may take us a while to see it.
Christ finds his bride lovely, so I pray that you would learn to do the same, and call his bride beautiful.