In our quest for cultural significance we twentysomething Christians focus an incredible amount of negative energy toward the Body known as the Church. We expect the Church to be progressive yet historically conscious, well behaved but not boring, holy but not aloof.
We complain that the preaching is shallow, that the Church is not feeding us, that we don’t like the music or that the Church is so hyper-busy that it doesn’t have time for the truly important things.
When there is so much criticism of the church from within and without, the question is unavoidable: Does the Church do anything right? Why is there such an attitude of discontent and judgment coming from the Body? Is our attitude itself about the Bride of Christ Christ-like?
[THIS COMMAND I GIVE UNTO YOU: COMPLAIN]
Jesus left us with only a few proofs of success as a Body. Interestingly, these benchmarks were not directed at the clergy or the corporate church, but toward individuals. He did not stake the “success” of the Church on programs, attendance, good preaching, warm fuzzies or even the ability to adapt with the shifting culture. The evidence that the Church was accomplishing her purpose was a completely different concept: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
This formula for success was heavy on Christ’s heart the night before He died. He told His disciples, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). He later presented this idea as a request to God: “I pray that they [believers] all may be one, as you, Father, are in me, and I in you; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me” (John 17:21).
All of this impressed John the Beloved enough for him to unequivocally state: “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20).
How many of our criticisms of the church are in violation of Christ’s command to love as He has loved us? Do I truly represent Christ when I focus all my attention and energy on the sin of my brother or the error of my church? As Francis Schaeffer said in The Mark of the Christian, “Love—and the unity it attests to—is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world. Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are indeed Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father.”
God did not call believers to be constant critics of the Church. The world is given the license to judge the Church according to the love we believers show for each other. Our job is much more personal.
[START THE REVOLUTION]
All of Christ’s commands for achieving God’s purpose for His Church focus on the individual’s response to God and man. Therefore, criticism must happen on an individual level. Purpose to revolutionize yourself.
We love to play Holy Spirit for fellow believers but Christ did not call us to serve as the Holiness Police. In fact, this office is specially reserved for Satan as the accuser of the brethren. It is not our responsibility to judge, criticize or complain. We are called to know God and to impact His Church through our own relationship with Him.
[BE THE BODY]
We believers are all members of this body called the Church—we are all part of each other. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” and our words about the church impact the health of the body. If we choose to build—first in our own life and then in lives around us—we are strengthening the body.
Love is not easy. C.S. Lewis went so far as to say it is a risk to love—and loving someone ensures oneself deep, personal hurt. Yet the beautiful, irrational love of a man for his wife or of a mother for her child illustrates Christ’s love for the Church. If He loves His Church with this passion, we should be cautious before so quickly pointing out her spots and wrinkles. When the urge arises to correct the pastor for a missed point or to smirk at the sin of a Catholic priest, or even when we sit in simmering judgment toward the fellow church member three pews ahead, remember our primary command to “love one another as I have loved you.”
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