“For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”
– Ephesians 1:15-23
On my long Carolina drive today from coast to mountains, I felt deeply inspired to share about the REAL Christian church. I mean, it’s messed up. The way the church is talked about, it’s no wonder so many people hate it (and I know this to be true after spending only 5 weeks in Italy). Before we begin, let’s define church here.
church (noun): A building used for public Christian worship; the whole body of Christian believers
I go to church and I’m part of the church, and I have been hurt by it. I know other people have been hurt too. It seems like Christians just can’t get their acts together. I’m gonna admit a few things to you now, and for the sake of the rest of this post, church refers to the body of believers unless otherwise specified.
The ugly truth is that the church is flawed.
The ugly truth is that the church is actually incapable of following every command in the Bible.
The ugly truth is that the church disagrees within itself, which causes arguments, divides, denominations, and congregational splits.
The ugly truth is that the church doesn’t always represent the message of Jesus well.
The ugly truth is that pastors get into trouble and can’t be proper leaders of a congregation.
The ugly truth is that Christians fight with other Christians, and even insult the ones that don’t agree with every little theological thing.
The ugly truth is that Christians are liars, thieves, alcoholics, racists, sexists, rapists, murderers, criminals or worse.
Here’s the catch, though. The church is also redeemed.
And just in case you need this…
sin (noun): violation of divine law; transgression of the law of God
If you thought this post was about my problems with the church, I successfully tricked you. I hope you’ll forgive my deception and continue reading. You know me… there’s always a happy ending. 😉
I believe God cares very deeply for his church. After all, God created the church and sacrificed his own perfect son, Jesus Christ, for the sake of the church. In return, the church is to represent the fullness of Christ, the very essence of His being. It’s quite a big task for sinful people- actually, it’s an impossible task. But God is capable of defeating the impossible, so He sent the Holy Spirit to live within all believers and act according to divine law and the gospel.
And oh how beautiful this gospel is. You see, I listed all the problems with the church above because I know these are the things everyone sees. These are also the things a lot of Christians don’t really like to admit. But why wouldn’t we admit them? By admitting our sin and the sin within the church, we are expressing the very reason we needed a savior in the first place!
The church is a broken institution, but there is a repairing redemption and hope that comes with knowing Jesus. That’s the real truth about the church. That’s the beautiful truth about the church.
The beautiful truth is that although the church is flawed, Jesus is perfect.
The beautiful truth is that through prayer and submission to the direction of the Holy Spirit, we can steer away from breaking the divine law.
The beautiful truth is that there are disagreements in theology among the church (i.e. Was creation a literal seven days or not? Can women be pastors and church elders? Should Christians drink alcohol? Should baptism be immersion or sprinkling?**) HOWEVER, the one unchanging truth is that the gospel is real, Jesus is real, and he died to save you because he loves you and God himself is love. That is one thing the church will never disagree on.
The beautiful truth is that Jesus himself is enough to represent the perfect gospel love and we mere mortals are lucky and humbled to play just a small part in spreading His love across the world, even if we can’t always do it perfectly.
The beautiful truth is that God is the leader of the church, not a flawed human.
The beautiful truth is sinners, even the worst of them by human standards, are forgiven.
The beautiful truth is that (and I think this is worth repeating) the redeeming message of the gospel is unchanging and one day believers will live together in a perfect harmony, eternally worshipping a perfect and wonderful and loving God.
**A note on theology because it can be a little confusing: I believe the Bible is 100% true, however, there are some things theologians don’t necessarily know (likes the things I mentioned above.) It’s not because we have trouble believing in the truth of the Bible; it’s because we have trouble interpreting it. God could easily reveal every little mystery to us and He will if He chooses. But I don’t think sinful humans can successfully interpret the ENTIRE Bible accurately, which is why these theological divides exist. Maybe this might turn people away, but the way I see it is this: If we could easily figure out and understand God, wouldn’t that make us equal with him? And if I am equal with God, is He really a God worth following? I would say no. He is so much bigger and greater than anything I could ever imagine, and I look forward to the day when the mysteries are revealed. But while here on earth, I’m okay just believing in the gospel. I’m okay with not knowing everything. Because what I do know for sure is that I am loved, I have a purpose, I am forgiven for all the crap I do and will continue to do, and that truth is enough for me.
I sincerely hope the mistakes of the church will not drive you away. I sincerely hope you can find a church (the actual building and congregation) that you feel welcome in, and I hope you can agree with most of its theology. I sincerely hope that you will accept and continue to love the other believers who don’t necessarily agree with all of your theology. I sincerely hope you can be forgiving as you are also forgiven.
Church, my prayer for you is this: You will share the gospel. You will not do anything to belittle your fellow believers, but rather encourage them in their journey with discovering and praising God. You will share the gospel. You will never forget to pray and read the Bible, for this is the way we talk and listen to the Creator of the universe. You will share the gospel. You will talk to nonbelievers about your faith in joy, and you will share the gospel. You will share the beautiful truth.