Believers: Your Posture Towards the Church Makes All The Difference
Written by Matt Martin, Pastor at Veritas Community Church.
The Church has flaws, and no, Veritas definitely isn’t a perfect church. In fact, it’s for that very reason that Jesus came to fulfill the Law and die–to cleanse her of those flaws and restore the perfect beauty for which She was created.
Often, and in the case of Veritas, She’s not as diverse in her local expression as She should be, or as She will be when Jesus finally comes back to fully restore her. She needs to pursue reconciliation within her own body, so that the differences among her members can begin to show off her beauty and that of her Maker and Redeemer. And yes, in many cases, She must find surer footing when it comes to welcoming and acknowledging the full personhood of single people, women, and others who have tended to be marginalized in her midst. She most definitely needs to learn to pray more, because it’s through doing so that She will learn to rely more on God. She certainly needs to serve her neighbors more and send more out of her midst to take the Gospel to other places and people that don’t have it, because the need is so abundant. These issues must be earnestly addressed and worked through until Jesus returns, because, as John Owen pointed out, we must “be killing sin or it be killing you.” Indeed, She has even more flaws and imperfections than these, but praise be to God that He cares so much more for her than any one of us can imagine.
Furthermore, She is not merely a 501(c)3, and She is not any one leader or individual. You are her and She is you. Together we make up her body, and our individual flaws and shortcomings constitute her ongoing failure and need for Jesus’ death and resurrection.
You are her, and She is you.
So each of us is a participant in Jesus’ ongoing mission to wash her and cause her to flourish. And the posture of our hearts as we participate in that initiative makes all the difference in the world. We can approach her with skepticism, cynicism, and mistrust, waiting to love her until she conforms to our expectations and standards. But that’s not even how Jesus approaches her, or each of us for that matter. So, what can we learn from the heart of God about how to approach the flaws and imperfections we see in his bride, and in one another? We must approach her with a love unconditional, and a longing to see her transformed into what God has promised and died to make her become.
Let’s consider further the analogy of being in a relationship, be it a friendship, dating relationship, marriage, or parent-child relationship. Each of these could be approached in two different ways. One approach would be to begin from a place of unconditional love and support, regardless of or even in spite of the others’ flaws and shortcomings. From this posture one would be willing and ready to help address any failures out of love, because love moves us to want others to flourish and thrive. The way in which love approaches sin and failure is with care, sensitivity, humility, goodwill, and hope. Another approach to any of these relationships is to begin from a place of judgment and skepticism, whereby although a relationship may exist, true love and acceptance are not granted but earned only after the other person conforms to a particular standard. This approach is therefore most certainly willing and ready to critique, because such input is seen as necessary in order for the other person to change and reform so that genuine love and acceptance might eventually take fruit in the relationship. But the reality is that none of us would want to be in such a relationship, nor is it how Jesus approaches the Church, and it therefore doesn’t represent how we should approach our relationship with the Church.
The way in which love approaches sin and failure is with care, sensitivity, humility, goodwill, and hope.
Consider for a moment the way Jesus approached Zacchaeus, the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, Peter after his denials of Christ, or countless others who he encountered in his earthly ministry. If these examples characterize how Jesus approached those who would constitute his eventual bride and body, how much more ought we to approach our relationship with the Church out of love, grace, and humility? Consider also for a moment the Spirit’s approach to you, or the way in which you may have been led to Christ by others. Isn’t that how you would want to be approached as a fellow member of the Church?
Surely we must be discerning and wise about entering into relationships with those who may have intentions of harming us. We must also be thoughtful about becoming a participating member of a local expression of the Church, judging not only for soundness of doctrine and faithfulness to Scripture, but also for genuineness of faith and belief. But this level scrutiny must not characterize one’s posture in an ongoing way towards others or the Church if genuine faithfulness and goodwill are identified. We most certainly must remain vigilant because of how deceitful the heart can be, and how crafty Satan is. But we should trust the Spirit and the Bible as the measuring sticks rather than our own hearts, and we must remember who the real enemy is.
But we should trust the Spirit and the Bible as the measuring sticks rather than our own hearts.
Just as my wife, Ashley, and I remind each other of the nature of our relationship in the wake of conflict by stating to one another, “Same Team,” we must as individual (fallen but redeemed) members of the Church remind each other that we’re on the “Same Team”, and that by God’s grace we will continue to conform to the image of his Son and together carry out the mission of God on earth until he comes to perfect us and take us home. So by all means, Believers, let us speak the truth to one another–but may we do so in love so that we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.