I love Jesus but hate the church. I have been hearing this statement being used far too often of late. And if I had written this blogpost a couple of months back I would have a condescending voice, I would ask questions like why, questions like how; not the nice kind of why and how questions, but the condescending ones.
But now I know better, I understand more. I still do not agree with the statement but I see where it comes from. It is so evident in a conversation I have had with close friends; I have seen it firsthand. So I get it.
I have discovered that there are 2 reasons why this comment is common.
An individualistic society
One is a fear reason (read this post on fear) as this is more of an build-up from a conversation I recently had with myself on fear.
Fear of what you may ask? Fear of many things; fear of loving the church then being let down; a choice of the ‘safer’ option, not to engage; fear of letting people in.
Increasingly our world is very individualistic, everyone for themselves and God for us all. I live my life, I do my thing, you do the same. However, this goes against everything that loving a church is all about
Loving a church entails opening up your life to the body of Christ. It entails having to look at others and truly care for them. It entails seeing the joy in my neighbors and celebrating with them, truly and honestly celebrating with them. It also entails seeing my neighbor cry and truly weeping with him. That’s the only way the love of the church works. There’s no shortcut. And no individualism does not cut.
And this is where fear comes in. For many of us we are afraid to go that far. We would rather reach within ‘self’ and look to God and that’s the beginning and the end of the story. We give many reasons why we do not want to love the church, we talk about the way the church is uptight, we talk about the way the church is pretentious, we talk about many things, but at the heart of the choice to not love the church is a fear that only has space for self.
Wounded by this church
The second reason I see is that we have been wounded by the church. See many of us grow up with this starry eyed view of the church, it is the Santa Claus of our world; the epitome of perfect.
However, as we engage with the church, this veil begins to fall down and we begin to see that the church is made up of normal imperfect human beings as you and me. Worse these normal human beings hurt us. Heck we hurt others as well. N in the process wounds begin to form.
I have talked to many people who have felt wounded by the church in one way or another. I have heard of very good reasons of feeling wounded, i was not cared for, I was ignored, I felt used. But I have also heard reasons that go wrong from the onset, the wounds fueled by the reason we interact with the church; wounds fueled by unrealistic expectations just because of our starry eyed view of the church. I do not in any way seek to undermine or diminish the wounds people have over the church. Far from it. I just wish to see them for what they really are. So we walk in fear (that word again) to ensure we do not ever get hurt again.
I hear some say that the church is full of hypocrites. This often from a realization that people in church are not perfect! But this the thing, hypocrites are not new to church, they always have been, that’s what the Pharisees were, that’s who the church was made up of that’s why it was so easy to crucify the Messiah. So u want a definition of hypocrites, look at the early church. Yet you don’t find Christ saying avoid fellowships.
So we love Jesus…
For the above reasons and many other reasons, many have disengaged from the church. To love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind, yes; but the church, no.
But this is the fallacy I see in this plan. The church is the bride of Christ. The more I interact with the word of God the one thing I see more clearly is that it is not possible to truly love the Lord and not in turn just love the church. I will tell you why.
You see at the chore of Christianity is a call to love. That call to love cannot be applied without the church. That call to love is not a call to love coz the church is perfect, it just is a call to love. You see without the church we can never truly love. We can never truly purport to know the Lord. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.
I look at the early church and I see a model of this love. The book of Acts talks about how the church sold all they had and shared among themselves. I know these verses are quoted more often in conversation on communism. However, more than the sharing and the giving, what I see here is LOVE. It’s a church that truly loved each other that they were concerned with the welfare of each other. You can’t share this much without love. This church was so open to each other’s joys and hurts. They were a church. Do not be deceived that they were just better people than we are and therefore loving each other was easier. These are the same guys who crucified Christ so their hearts were wicked. But when they accepted Jesus as personal savior, they knew this was a call to love each other. Only then were they able to keep each other accountable. Only then were their live a reflection of who Jesus was to them. Only then could they truly be what God called them to be.
Lastly…feed my sheep
I look at Peter. Jesus asks Him words that pierce to my heart in more ways than one “Simon son of John, do you love me? Feed my sheep.”
The reason this words pierce in my heart is coz Jesus is saying if you truly love me, then you will love my people. You will love my church. You will be about feeding my sheep. See talk is cheap, talk is easy, its easy to say we love You Lord but when the rubber meets the road, the only true way to love the Lord is be about His sheep.
So yes the church is imperfect, I will be first to admit this. I just need to look at my life to see where the imperfection starts from. You see the church is you and me, and as long as I still aint perfect then there can never be a perfect church. Should we strive for holiness? Heck yes, that’s the journey we are called to. But this is the thing, if I stay in my house and wait for the church to be perfect that I may join it, then I lie when I say I love the Lord.
Is it easy, sometimes yes. Sometimes it’s the easiest thing I do, love the church. But sometimes it’s not. It is truly hard. But it is in those times I must go to the Lord and say help me Lord, I want to love your church. I want to feed your church. I am struggling. Help me.
I must also as the church ask myself time and time again, am I a stumbling block to someone else. Am I causing someone else to prefer staying at home and sulking over the church. My prayer is I am not. My bet is once in a while I am. I truly apologize for that. I am at the feet of Jesus, He is still at work in me, be patient with me. In the meantime, imagine you cannot love the lord and not love the church.
In the meantime I must so pray for my imperfect church. I must so pray for my leaders. I must pray that we may stand. I must pray that we may always be about the people, about feeding His flock.
What is love you may ask? I sigh. Then I tell you, love is patient (in a pap world), love is kind (wen I would rather strangle that person). It does not envy (when I tempted to compete with the Jones), it is not easily anger (did I already say when I want to strangle), it keeps no records of wrong (when I think this is the n’th time you are wounding me). Love does not rejoice in evil but rejoices with the truth (it’s not about any other sideshow than that He is the way, the truth and the life). It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Did I tell you that the Word of God says that if I have all the giftings, all the prophesying, all the speaking in tongues but have no love I am nothing?
But what encourages me most is this, that love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (I tell you a phewk moment right there). He will teach you and me to love. I don know about you but I can freely tell u I would never love in my own strength, the church would be this place I avoid. But He helps me, He will help me. I love the church because Christ loved the church. She is his bride–a harlot at times, but his bride nonetheless, being washed clean by the word of God. I am the church.