The Case of the Curious Contradictory Christian

“How can I be expected to ‘love my church’ when ‘these things are happening/going wrong/failing badly? ”

Love is not driven by what we like or don’t like about the church (Jesus’ love wasn’t, was it?). Christian love is minimum sentiment, maximum commitment, isn’t it? (See 1 Corinthians 13!)  Have you drifted from the basic Jesus-like life-style involved in loving the church? I would not be the first minister to be concerned about that (whoever wrote Hebrews knew all about this—see Hebrews 10:24-25).

 

 Here’s some Bible Trivial Pursuit:

Question: Paul’s words: “Christ loved the church and gave himself for the church”—in what context do they appear?

Answer: Marriage (Ephesians 5:22-33).

Marriage has a “secret” (“mystery” is Paul’s word—something hidden that we know only because God has disclosed it to us). Jesus is that secret. Only when he is central can marriage be what God intended it to be.

But there’s another application of these words: If Jesus loved (and loves) the church, so should I. A Christian who does not love the church is really a contradiction in terms.

Many of us love “our” (or rather, “Jesus’ ”) church. I know I do, and 1798 of our 2702 members have been “married” to our church longer than I have! How marvelous if that “many of us” were “all, without exception”!

But there are exceptions—perhaps here, certainly elsewhere. After all, people say, “How can I be expected to ‘love my church’ when ‘these things are happening/going wrong/failing badly?’ ”

When friends say that, the best thing to do is to raise one eyebrow and ask: “Really?”

What about the fellowship fall-out at Rome, the moral problems in Corinth, the confusion in Galatia, the disagreement among the women of the church in Philippi, the misunderstanding of the Christian life at Colossae, the difficulties in Thessalonica? These were the churches Paul loved, because these were the churches Jesus loved.

That’s why it is such a contradiction in terms to be a Christian who doesn’t love the church, and who, instead, makes the failures of his or her church a reason for distancing herself or himself from the basic life and disciplines of Jesus’ family: worship, the ministry of the word, the fellowship of the Lord’s Table and people, corporate prayer, and so on.

Yet this, in the experience of many pastors, is the single most common mis-step people take.

There is a saying: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” But in church it should be different: “When the going gets tough, the tough stay put.” They keep going as they were always going.

Love is not driven by what we like or don’t like about the church (Jesus’ love wasn’t, was it?). Christian love is minimum sentiment, maximum commitment, isn’t it? (See 1 Corinthians 13!)

Have you drifted from the basic Jesus-like life-style involved in loving the church? I would not be the first minister to be concerned about that (whoever wrote Hebrews knew all about this—see Hebrews 10:24-25).

These words are written as “a bow shot at a venture” (see 1 Kings 22:34 for the arresting origin of the expression). I hope they are relevant to nobody!

But now the arrow leaves the bow and will fly through the air, courtesy of our editor, the printing department, our staff, and the US Postal Service! If in God’s providence the arrow hits you, let me encourage you not to drift from the church Jesus loves and calls you to love, too.

Sinclair B. Ferguson is a Minister in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church and serves as pastor of First Presbyterian (APR), Columbia, SC.  This article appeared in the October 7, 2012, edition of First Things, a publication of First Presbyterian Church of Columbia, SC. Reprinted with permission.