I believe in the holy Christian Church. We say it all the time. “Believe” is the forgotten word in that phrase. Since God created the Church out of nothing, Jesus has commanded His people to believe it exists and is alive and well. He instructed His disciples that not only the church but the very reign of God would not be as visible as we might demand. “Like a mustard seed,” He compares. “The least of mine, the last will be first, when you fed the hungry one you fed me.” He describes its precious members.
Yet here we are looking at numbers, complaining about weak members or leaders, bemoaning the increasing antagonistic culture. From professors of theology to armchair pundits, fellow members of Jesus’ rag tag body declare with dismay the condition of the holy Christian Church. The websites displaying pictures of happy loving people don’t match the weak and broken people gathering on Sundays or sitting in board meetings to decide whether drums should be allowed for worship.
People definitely get hurt in this ugly looking assembly. Malicious actions and false preaching should certainly be called out for repentance. But none of these maladies should surprise anyone who clings to Jesus’ words. Jesus declares that even the weakest barely believing fool who bears His name deserves our embrace. He even identifies with them. He’s talking about you. He’s talking about that dude who spoke harshly to you as he pushed you aside for coffee after service.
Oh, there is light that shines from Jesus’ mob. It shines when people from different walks of life come together praising God for His great works. It shines when God’s people share their gifts to the benefit of each other and for the poor in their community.
But it also shines brightly through the cracks of it’s platonic picture. When a brother finds grace from another for something he had done. When a sister hears forgiveness from the woman she had wronged. The Lord forgives His church, too. The gospel is for her leaders and members, as well. Jesus does the most amazing things with sin and death. One might say those are the times where the holy Christian Church is most visible!
We believe that this weak foolish bunch of misfits is the church not because we see it, but because He says it is so. We believe that God will make disciples and move unhindered throughout even the most vile of cultures because He promised that His church would even storm through the gates of Hell. We believe in the holy Christian Church the same way we believe that sinners are saints. Because the One who died and rose says so.
For the Head of this body also didn’t look like much. “Come down from the cross and we will believe,” they taunted Him. He didn’t look like a King, let alone a Savior, even less God. “Behold the man,” Pilate proclaimed, perhaps disappointed. He was invisible to them. But He did not complain. Shoved down to the last place of success, He did His greatest work. A mustard seed crushed under the foot of profane mortals became the source of life for sinners.
If God can take a cross and make it into a life giving tree, He can do the same through His holy Church. Don’t be afraid. It isn’t velveteen. But it’s real.