“He cannot have God as Father, who will not have the Church for his Mother.” -St. Augustine.
I love the church. It has been popular in our culture today to say we love Jesus, but we don’t like the church. I don’t think that is possible truthfully. If you really love Jesus you will love His bride because Jesus loves the Church. I feel like even an elementary level reading of Scripture will help you to see that you can’t love Jesus and hate the church.
I grew up going to church in my small town. I was told at a young age that we spend time with people in the church because it is where we learn to love and follow Jesus. I was raised to believe the church cared about me and I saw it lived out by so many wonderful people. At the same time I was so encouraged by some people in the church, I also was disappointed by many as well. I remember the first time I prayed in the service, I said something in my prayer and people laughed at me for it. I remember seeing the church split over issues with the preacher or with the daycare that was in the church. I couldn’t help but think, why are these people fighting so much when God called His children to be peacemakers. I realized at a young age the church was made up of imperfect people, and that was okay as long as the imperfect people sought after Christ with their life.
I have wanted to be a preacher since I was two years old and knew that journey would be a difficult one at certain times. It was going to be a dangerous choice to follow this calling that God had placed on my heart. I knew at some point I would have to say things and do things that would make others uncomfortable. I have had people in the church call me a heretic, a liberal, a false teacher, and even people in my own family calling me a church-basher. It truly hurts me to hear those things, because nothing could be further from the truth. I am just trying to do whatever I can to be obedient to God’s call on my life.
I love the church so much that I can never stand by and be okay with her being stagnant or comfortable. I can never stop speaking up for people and issues, and challenging the church to grow. If I have church members tell me they are upset that I am challenging some of the beliefs they have had for years. I simply reply, “Yes I am, it is my job.” I don’t know when it became okay to be a Christian for 30-40 years and then say, “Okay I am done growing, because I have been a Christian for a long time. I don’t want somebody to challenge my beliefs or get me to read something that might make me uncomfortable.” It is sad when I hear things like this, because I never want to stop growing in my faith or have a pastor that is okay with never challenging me to think critically and ponder the things of Jesus.
I love the church because Jesus loved the church. Jesus was always challenging the things that people believed in the church. He was knocking down idols that had been made, and encouraging the church to think deeper about issues. He wanted them to know the goodness of God, and also know about His heart for the poor, broken, oppressed, and trampled. Jesus loved the church by making sure they never stopped growing. Jesus loved the church by calling them out when they were lifting up things above the Father. Jesus loved the church by dying for her. It is something that I don’t fully understand. People in the church hated Him, so much so that after his first sermon, they wanted to throw Him off a cliff (Luke 4:28-29). After He said to them that they are the sons of devil they wanted to stone Him (John 8:59). They were constantly ridiculing Him for dining with tax collectors, prostitutes, liars, thieves and sinners (Matt 9:9-13; Luke 15:1-2). His love for the church was so great that he wanted them to know He loves them too much to allow them to stay stagnant. He wanted to call them to righteousness and love of others.
I love the church because the church loves me. Although at times I may have been hurt by certain people in the church, I know the church loves me and wants me to grow as well. They love me enough to encourage me and challenge my own opinions on things. If I was having an issue I know that I can go to many people in the church because they would have my back and lift me up in prayer.
My heart of love will never die for the church. No matter how many scars I may get from people in the church, I will never give up on His bride. I will never stop challenging her to grow, and am so glad she never stops challenging me to grow. When the church is truly the body of Christ we show the world what Jesus looks like. We are truly the second incarnation of God on the earth. We must never let our traditions or opinions divide us. We must remain faithful to the God who loves us and is always faithful to us, even though we may not always be faithful to Him.