As you may have noticed in my first post on this series, oftentimes those of us who struggle with church are beginning from the wrong vantage point. We are starting with ourselves, then looking around us left and right, and finally looking at God, if we even make it that far.
It’s essential to visit (or revisit) what scripture teaches about the body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:12, 14: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ…For the body does not consist of one member but of many.”
This passage follows the text about spiritual gifts that are given by the Spirit to God’s people. These different gifts when brought together under the headship of Christ function as a healthy body. No member should be treated as though his/her gift is not essential for the working of the whole body.
Let’s continue in 1 Corinthians 12. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you,’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with great modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” (21-26)
After this description of how God has designed the body of Christ to fit together, Paul exhorts the church to love one another in ways that are truly only possible if we are hidden in Christ. This kind of real, steadfast, gracious, long-suffering love is a requirement if we are to persevere in the body of Christ. As we discussed yesterday, there are problems in the church, with the people, and in ourselves. But God is aware of all of those needs and concerns and He prescribed that fellowship among believers is part of the cure.
Ephesians 4:1-7, 15-16 says: “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call–one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift…Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that its builds itself up in love.”
Clearly, God sees the church, the people, and us with an understanding that we don’t have on our own and a purpose that is not apparent to us until we begin to follow Him and He grants the ability to see with eyes of faith and discern things of the Spirit.
What God sees looks beautiful, wonderful, strong, and majestic. What I have seen in my darker days was flawed, commonplace, weak, and worn. How do we bridge that gap?
I have good news and bad news for you, depending on how you look at it. The good news is that we can begin to see the church as God sees her and it is a tremendous and transforming work in our lives and in the life of the body. The bad news is that even while you might only see the problems, aren’t feeling the whole going to church thing, and maybe don’t care too much for some of her people,
step one is going anyway and
step two is being involved anyway.
Yes, I have an idea of how dissatisfactory that may seem to you if you are in your dark days. Remember, I was there once, too and for a long time. I’m sure there were weeks and months that I was just a body in the pew with either a disgusted or disinterested look about me, but I was there and God took care of the places in me that I simply could not change.
As Christians, we are called to obey the Lord. This is how we demonstrate our love for Him. If we will not obey, we are not ultimately loving Him. For a season, try not to be too preoccupied with your feelings or whether or not you ‘want to.’ I didn’t want to go to church. I didn’t feel like it was doing any good. I didn’t connect with God’s people there. I didn’t believe they cared about me or my ‘stuff.’ For quite awhile, I didn’t even really hear the message preached. But God was doing a work in me that I could not comprehend just by the choice to show up.