When I write posts like this , it would seem I am a cynical bitter woman. And in some ways, you might be right. But if you met me, you’d probably think differently. Because although I felt all of those things, made those judgements: I am still wholly idealistic. And this is where some of the biggest danger to a love for the church lies.
I love the image of the bride. The perfection and luminance. I love the pictures of God’s universal church made pure and united together, a body beautiful. Each joint and sinew moving fluid like spirit, radiating light. Each encounter healing and whole.
I will gladly link hearts with the persecuted church, the ones in chains, the ones that suffer for a chance to be two or more gathered. There is a suspension of my reality, from comfy pews and air conditioning, to a place where the devoted live and die and breathe God in the spaces they share. I love the Moravians packing their belonging into coffins and sailing into slavery to carry the gospel knowing they would never know a home here. That every earthly sacrifice was worth the price of the God they loved and the church they wanted to see bought with blood.
And it’s this church that my mind loves. Like a phantom limb aching and out-of-place. An apparition I’ve only dreamed about but never really seen.
And here, I can choose not to. I can choose to judge church by the emotional reaction I have to a message preached hard and convicting. And I can go home and decide I have too much stuff, and I can sponsor a child or two or three, and I can be moved by the message enough to wade through my purse for my crumpled church program and scratch out notes that should be life but later wraps the wad of wintergreen spit out before coffee.
I can take actions and feel better without ever letting my emotions turn to revelation and drip deep down my marrow and penetrate into soul and spirit. I can like the status that spreads news of clean water, or family values, or a scripture typed onto the perfect picture of a dahlia; it’s ripening petals cascading full and red, without ever counting the cost.
I can be the church so easily here. Because it seems to require nothing of me. But I can be left unsatisfied, or worse, satiated just enough to float on. And either way, I’ve lost something.
And I have done both. One might think a more passionate fervor for the ideal church would spurn on growth and zeal, reformation and repentance. But I’ve found that those who set forth high ideals have the misguided notion that they build the church, myself included.
Christ alone builds the church. And when I find myself fumbling about with ideals of what my Christian church community should look like, even if my heart is well-intentioned and honest, I become pretentious. My pride sets a standard that thrashes at grace and forgiveness and teeters on demands that my brothers and sisters and myself must meet.
I indict God when my church fails me. God, your bride is wretched and I will not love her.
My heart fashions a throne to the idols based on tenets of good Christianity: Service, sacrifice, zeal, compassion, wisdom, justice and the list continues ,ever growing. And these, my friends, are good and worthy things. But they are not the only things.
What do you think? Do you think idealism or apathy hurt the church more? Or equally? Or not at all, or something else? I’d love to hear from you.
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