By Mark A. Taylor
Like one writer this month (Rick Chromey in “Why I Love the Church”), many readers have lived in the embrace of the church since birth. They know what the church is, because they see what the church is accomplishing. They can’t imagine what life would be like without the nurture, community, and accountability uniquely provided by God’s people.
They’ve seen the parade of meals carried to the ill and the shut-in. They’ve experienced hours and days of quiet companionship from Jesus followers who walked with them through sickness, disappointment, or the death of someone close. They’ve confessed their sins and discovered a remarkable reservoir of grace unlike anything the world offers, forgiveness accompanied by partnership in the task of rising above failure.
And careful church watchers have seen goodness beyond what any one person can experience for himself.
Bob Russell, a lifetime churchgoer himself, described the bigger picture at this site two years ago.* He reminded us that 106 of the first 108 colleges in this country were started by the church. He recited a litany of good the church has done in the world throughout history: the hospitals, the inner-city missions, the relief efforts in areas ravaged by natural disasters, the benevolence—schools adopted, the hungry fed, the poor clothed, the penniless given Christmas gifts. “Churches are making a dramatic impact in nearly every community,” Russell wrote.
And this is true around the world. In Jesus’ name the church is digging wells, building schools, investing in microenterprise, and attracting new believers to thousands of new churches while showing them love inspired by God.
Russell acknowledged that the church, the bride of Christ, “has some blemishes and a few age spots.” But maybe it’s not the bride herself, but the way we’ve dressed her, that is tarnished and unworthy.
We’ve forced the bride into clothes that fit us but not her. We’ve fashioned her in our image; we’ve made her about us—our preferences, our preconceptions, our prejudices—instead of the persistent passion and the perfect love in her original mission.
Thankfully, God will overcome our shortsightedness. He sent Christ not only to establish the church, but to die 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 5:26, 27).
We need not worry if we don’t see such perfection today. It’s God’s work and God’s timing to achieve. But in the meantime, we continue to recognize glimpses of that eternal glory as we take our place beside history’s heroes in the tasks of the world’s best hope, the church.
*Find Russell’s essay at http://bit.ly/2gwsCkN