“Hypocrites,” “Sunday only believers,” “no better than the rest of us,” “I don’t know about organized religion,” these and many more phrases quickly slip from a skeptic’s mouth when asked about the Church. Sadly, they are not necessarily wrong. Even within Christianity’s circles, critics decry churches and how they have hurt people. All true statements for sure. I certainly am first to apologize for being a two-faced Christian. Lord have mercy.
There is an interesting statement confessed by many Christians every Sunday. “I believe in the holy Christian Church.” Or sometimes they will say, “catholic,” or, “one holy apostolic church.” We say, “I believe,” because we do not always see it. Not to say we do not see it at all. I have certainly seen God’s people do wonderful things like serving the needy, sharing with one another, and gripping tightly the chalice of communion as if it is the most precious thing they have ever enjoyed. I have heard the most wonderful message from the pastor or a child encouraging his family to pray at supper. The Church is not invisible. It is often beautiful, but it is hidden.
Jesus instructs His disciples often with parables about a mustard seed or a garden full of weeds and seeds. He knows we will be frustrated not seeing the glory of God’s people in everyday life. While Jesus commands His people to love one another and let their light shine for the world, He also knows how, until our flesh is buried six feet under, we will be simultaneously sinners and saints. Therefore, our glory is Christ’s cross and our hope is His forgiveness, not His applause!
The holy Christian Church is ultimately an article of faith, not sight. God calls us to see our brothers and sisters through His eyes; adorned with the robes of Christ. When I address my parishioners as brothers and sisters in Christ, I do not say it because I see this all the time. I believe it. I believe Jesus is serious when He tells Peter and his buddies, “You are the rock and, on this rock, I will build my assembly and the gates of Hell will not overcome it.” Even though, afterward, they betray, deny and scatter, leaving Him alone on the cross, He alone was not two faced, wishy washy, or a hypocrite. Therefore, I put my trust in Him and His words, despite what I see. If He says I am free, I am. If He says I am forgiven, I am. If He says I am one of His sheep, I am. The same goes for all His people. Who am I to say otherwise?
Amazingly His promise to the disciples has not disappointed. Hell has been assaulted. Through forgiven sinners Christ’s message of peace and resurrection has broken through many a dark fortress and many a burdened life. The Church, the people of God trusting in Jesus, has not only remained but spread throughout the world. Satan has done his best through persecution from outside and within. Even though preachers have fallen, institutions have forgotten their first love, Christians have hurt the ones they have been called to love, the message of hope and the people of hope have not only survived but thrived.
I believe in the holy Christian Church because the One who rose from the dead has called me into it, even me. Why would I turn my head now? What more proof do I need then holes in Jesus’ hands and an empty grave?
If God calls me beautiful despite my sins, surely I shall say the same to those who greet me on Sunday morning.
Yet there is a day which is coming. An approaching time when we will no longer believe God’s Church is beautiful but will see it with our own resurrected eyes. What was hidden will be revealed. When Christ appears, His Church will appear but without the ugliness of sin and death. Like the bride walking down the aisle dressed in white, we will no longer have to cling to Jesus promise when we look in the mirror but will see ourselves truly as we were made to be, in our true natural state!
Then the Church will no longer be marred by arguments and sin, nor stained by death and defeat. Look forward to that!