The pain and power of the Church. . .

My friend and I were having coffee yesterday with a girl from Rutgers when I started thinking about how important church is.

But it’s heartbreaking when I look around at so many churches and see arguing, bickering, gossip, and bitterness pervading the congregation, and all too often, the staff.

Jewel (the girl from Rutgers) had some very insightful views on the Church that weren’t too positive. And frankly, I’d have to say that I agreed with her. Churches are hurtful groups of people that are more concerned with being right than they are with living right.

Jewel is an agnostic. And her view of churches represents the prevailing view. Arrogant, bitter, judgmental, nonsensical. And the Church has done nothing to change that view.

Christians are known for condemning people who are different, and then telling them that we love them.

Love them? Yeah, right.

We just want to beat them over the head with our opinions.

So, if I have such a low opinion of church, why is it so important to me?

Well, for starters, it has hurt me in some very profound ways. It has instilled in me an unhealthy fear of God and a desire to please God through rule-following. I figured that since the way to please the elders in the church was through following rules, that’s how I would make God happy.

I know the church can change. It has to change.

Jesus said that he came to earth so that we “may have life, and have it to the full.” (Jn 10.10)

Correct me if I’m wrong, but trying to please God by following a bunch of rules isn’t exactly a full life. And living under the constant judgment of Christians is a painful way to live. It’s this pain that drives so many people out of the Church.

People like me.

But the Church was given great power to do good in the world. While many Christians have forgotten its purpose, there are a handful in the world who realize that the Church should be more than a Christian Country Club.

When Jesus established his church, he did so with these words: “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

This new church was described like this:

All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.

They were world-changers characterized by love. . . because Jesus said to them, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

That’s what church is supposed to look like. That’s the church’s power and calling. It’s not about proving to the world that we have all the answers, because we really don’t. And it’s not about telling everyone that they’re sinful and broken, because everyone already knows that humanity is flawed.

It’s about love. And I believe I’m supposed to be a part of that. I believe I’m supposed to change the world through love.

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