Can I Love the Church When the Church is Such a Mess?

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

Ephesians 5:25

Many of us aren’t so sure how to answer this question. It’s common these days for people, including Christians, to rail on the church, to focus on its ample shortcomings, to minimize its goodness. I wonder: Would we do this if we really believed Christ loved the church?

It’s also increasingly common today for Christians to minimize the value of the church, to claim that we need Jesus, not the church. Post on Facebook that you love Jesus but not the church and you’ll get a slew of “Likes.” Yet, if we were convinced that Jesus loves the church, would we be so quick to reject his beloved?

“But,” we might fairly protest, “the church is a mess. The church is nothing like Christ intended it to be. I can love the church as a theological ideal, but the real church is just not lovable.”

I would agree that the church has plenty of flaws. I’ve seen them, felt them, bemoaned them, and added to them. But does this allow us to fail to love the church? Consider the analogy of marriage, my marriage, in particular. It’s true that I have plenty of flaws. I make tons of mistakes. Nobody knows this better than my wife, Linda. But, if you criticize me in her presence, her blood will boil. She might not take off your head because she’s a godly person, but she will be deeply offended. She’ll be more upset by your criticism of me than I will be. I expect Jesus knows that the church is flawed, but I wonder how he feels when we put down his bride or minimize her value?

Tomorrow, we’ll consider whether Christ really loves the flawed church. For now, though, let me encourage you to consider the following questions.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What are your thoughts and feelings about the church? How have you seen or experienced its flaws? Would you say that you love the church? If not, why not? If so, how do you express this love for the bride of Christ?

PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, as a member of your church, I would confess that we are indeed a mess. We are rife with division and discord. We so easily turn inward and care about ourselves while forgetting the world and our mission. We can gather and pretend to be so holy, yet go out into the world and live as if you didn’t matter. We can fail to love each other, not to mention our neighbors, not to mention our enemies. In these and so many other ways, we fall short of your intentions for us. We fail to honor you in our life and work.

Yet you love us. You love your church. You claim us as your own. You died for us. You are at work among us and through us. You bless us, comfort us, and empower us. How we thank you, Lord, for loving us, your church, even though we are such a mess. Thank you for your mercy and grace, for your love that never lets us go. Amen.

Advent in Us

“But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace” (1 Cor. 15:10).

The grace of God through Christ Jesus is not a passive presence in our lives. The grace of God is at work in us, building us up and moving us to action and growth, to good work and worship. Everything we accomplish and all we become is because of the grace of Christ. In this, the first week of Advent, let’s remember Advent in Us, the gift of grace through our Lord Jesus. Let’s consider ways to discover anew the work of grace in our work, our lives, and our relationship with God.

Featured image by Cindee Snider Re. Used with Permission. Source via Flickr.