Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Asking the Hard Questions

Disappointment with the church is something I regularly hear expressed by non-Christians and Christians alike. This is to be expected from non-Christians, and from Christians too, although it is hard to find out that we think so much like the world. Often, though Christians and non-Christians come from different perspectives, their conclusion is the same: somehow, the church was not what it claimed to be. Somehow, the church let them down, and they don’t want to be a part of it.
I do not deny that the church, being comprised of flawed individuals, has tectonic faults. The wealth of prophecy in the Bible not only confirms this but shows that the church’s biggest critic has always been God. However insightful we are when it comes to the church’s shortcomings, it has all been said before. The difference is that God doesn’t have the luxury of leaving. He made vows, vows in His own blood, to love and to cherish those He has called.
Ephesians 5:25 says, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.” This is what the church needs. Unless the Lord continues to love her and give Himself up for her, she will never be what she is called to be. And how does the Head carry on this ministry to His body? How does my head care for my body? Through its members. Church, then, is a context in which the Lord can love His bride and give Himself up for her through individual members. “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Eph. 4:16).
Unfortunately, many Christians do not view injury as an opportunity to love and give themselves up for the church in the image of Jesus. Instead of suffering wrong, instead of letting death work in us that life may work in others, we come feeling entitled to a good experience and are offended if things don’t turn out (1 Cor. 6:7, 8; 2 Cor. 4:12). But are we above our Master who was crucified by His own people? Have we not understood Stephen’s speech in Acts 7? Jesus’s death crowned a history of God’s people persecuting their own—Joseph sold into slavery by his brothers, Moses rejected by those he was sent to deliver, and many others that Stephen doesn’t mention. If we took these things to heart, the things we suffer would not only make more sense but would have value (1 Peter 4:12).
Let’s take responsibility. It is our illusions of the church, and not the church itself, that have actually failed us. Perhaps…but this level of honesty is hard to come by. As victims, we are granted immunity from the hard questions, especially when it comes to asking the hard questions of ourselves. After all, we were injured, how could any fault lie with us? But we must ask ourselves the hard questions, and move from only receiving God’s love to being His love poured out for others.

“And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves
but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:15).

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Household Jesus

Ephesians chapter one confronts us with One who existed before creation, who encompasses every spiritual blessing, in whom God consummated all times, places, and realms. When considering such a cosmic Christ, it is tempting to wonder how relevant He is to our daily lives. But the real question is: How relevant are we to God? That Christ is the beginning and end must deeply affect us. God will never be relevant to us until we realize that there is no relevance outside of Him.

As Paul shares, he seems to run out of breath. No words in any language can encompass the One He has seen by revelation. Is our own vision of Christ so breathtaking? Or are we more interested in a small Jesus that mostly helps us live our own lives but doesn’t take us captive to His vision and purpose? The Old Testament speaks of “household gods,” idols set up in a small shrine in the home. If one wished to rearrange the furniture or move to another house, the gods could be picked up and placed where one wished. They were at the disposal of the family who owned them, and their purpose was to ensure the health and prosperity of the household. This is probably the sort of Jesus many want and have—a Jesus that stays in His place, that we can take wherever we wish, whose purpose centers on us and our desires. Whatever can be said about this household Jesus, we cannot say it is the Jesus of the New Testament. For the Jesus of the New Testament—the One who is before all things, in whom all things hold together—says, “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me?” (Col. 1:17; Isaiah 66:1, 2). Anyone who has encountered Christ as He is understands they will occupy a place in His house, that He is free to pick them up and take them wherever He wishes, that their life exists for His purpose and desires.