THE CHURCH , AN ADDENDUM
by Aline Edson
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Please, for a moment, put out of your mind every current connotation and representation of the word "church" as it is used today. Lift your mind from the personal experiences you and/or your family have had with the concept of this word. Go back with me to a time when the disciples are assembled around Jesus, and He asks them, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter's quick reply was, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus said, "God has revealed that to you, Peter, and on the rock of this truth I will build my church, and even the gates of hell will not not prevail against it. (Matt. 13-18, paraphrased)
Fast forward to fifty days later. Jesus has been crucified, risen and ascended back to the Father. The disciples had been told to tarry in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit should come. They were gathered together when this happened. Being filled with the Spirit, Peter preached to the assembly saying, "That same Jesus whom you with wicked hands crucified, God has made both Lord and Christ." The people were cut to the heart and cried out, "What shall we do?" Peter's answer was "Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and your children and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call." (Acts 2, paraphrased) The blood of Jesus had opened the door of His church to the whole wide world! And distantly you hear again the sweet echo, "Come unto Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. . ."
This is the simple story of the origin of the church. But now we come back to our own time: the term "church" conjures up confusion, cloudiness and endless wrangling, divisions, dogmas and differences. This ought not to be. True, we are flawed, frail mortals and always will be, but we are redeemed by a spotless Lamb and invited to become members of His Body, the church. We need to lift up our sights and remember the true nature of the church: her Head is Christ, and she will last forever. There is a spiritual dimension here that makes the church much more than the sum of her visible parts (us).
Please do not dismiss the church lightly. Do not make the divinely-instituted, blood-bought church accountable for the questionable actions of her flawed human membership. Christ established the church, invested her with His grace and made her impervious to every foe. Part of her membership is in heaven and part on earth. Her earthly components are still being transformed into the likeness of our Lord--some further along than others--but none so far along that they can be held responsible for, or represent, the validity of the church. The church is not an apt subject for human judgment as to her efficacy. The church corporate is not on trial except before her Lord from whom she draws her reason to be. We are an imperfect people, but we belong to a perfect Lord whose grace He has promised will cover our human frailties.
It is a high privilege to be a member of God's family, the church. If it is hard to live in the world without being part of a human family, it is infinitely harder to live in the world without a spiritual family. God knows we work better and more effectively together than by ourselves--His Book says so. Please do not desert your floundering brothers and sisters because we can't live up to standards you have set. Remember love covers a multitude of sins. And if you walk away from the church, you will inevitably choose another body of human beings to fellowship, and you will have exchanged one set of faults for another. Perfection in humanity is not to be found on earth. But the rewards are rich if you can love and forgive, bear and forbear, if you can laugh together and cry together, live and die together in God's precious family. By His design, the church is home away from home for His children. Please do not dismiss the church lightly: it cost the dear Savior His life's blood.
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It is a high privilege to be a member of God's family, the church.
Great article Aline. Yes, we are all flawed and far from perfect but we are His body. It upsets me when people dismiss the church for her human frailties. We will never be perfect until we get to heaven and what a day that will be! Thanks for sharing. I love reading your articles. In Christ's Love, Julia