The local church: love it or leave it?

Where the local church is not fulfilling a persons perceived need, the temptation to “look for God elsewhere” is understandable. But is it the best solution? Most importantly, would Jesus, the Bridegroom and Head of the church, favor a churchless Christianity?

Many who are disillusioned with the church today romanticize the early church, not realizing how broken things were then as well. Take Corinth, for example. As the most prominently represented church in Paul’s letters, Corinth was also a dysfunctional mess. Factions, harshness, divisions, adultery, lawsuits, divorce, elitism, classism, and neglect of the poor were just some of their issues. The famous “love chapter” in 1 Corinthians 13 was written less as inspiration and more as a rebuke, because each love attribute was something that the Corinthians were not. They had trampled on the ideal of what Jesus’ church should be—an infectious community of prayer, truth, love, justice, and mission (Acts 2:42-47).

But Paul never gave up on Corinth. Instead of walking away, he pressed in. As he sharply corrected them, he also encouraged, affirmed, loved, prayed for, and thanked God for them. Like Jesus, he saw a broken church and envisioned beauty. He saw a sinful church and envisioned sainthood. He saw a band of misfits but envisioned a radiant, perfected bride. And he knew that God wanted him to participate in loving this church to life.

At her best and at her worst, Jesus loves his church. He will build his church and nothing will prevail against her (Matthew 16:18). He laid down his life for her (John 10:11). He will never leave or forsake her (Hebrews 13:5). He will complete the work he started in her (Philippians 1:6). In other words, Jesus knows nothing about having more of God by having less of the church. To the contrary, Jesus is married to the church. The church is his chosen, beloved Wife.

What does it say about us if the church is good enough for the Father to adopt, for the Spirit to inhabit, and for Jesus to marry…but not good enough for us to join?

~ Scott Sauls

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