The church isn't perfect. But sometimes we have expectations that it will be, don't we? We yearn for it to be. We hope that the church would live up to its claims to love unconditionally, to show grace mercifully, and to be the hands and feet of Jesus. But it gets messy. Instead of finding this community that lives in perfect unity, we find hands that do not offer healing, but that cause hurt. Instead of unconditional love, we see a love that demands conditions. And we often exchange His radical grace for judgmental righteousness.
I've been reminded recently of how easily we lose sight of our story, our calling, of who we are...more importantly, whose we are.
In the opening acts of Genesis, we are told the story of Adam and Eve. They are living in perfect community in a perfect world; with each other; with God. But they are faced with a choice: to continue in this perfect harmony or partake from the forbidden: the tree of Life and the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The goal and the obstacle. And just like Adam and Eve, we, the church often confuse our goal as Christ followers with the obstacles of this world.
Like Eve we get tripped up, tricked by the questions "Did God really say...." and forget, first and foremost, we are His chosen people through whom God is looking to reveal His character, His mission, and His radical love story.
In the New Testament we read that Jesus prays for His disciples to be one. That we would be a people known by our love, united in Christ. In all honesty, at times, we as the church do so poorly with this. I, do so poorly with this. As the family of God grows, we see it diversify. We all are created uniquely different from one another. We all come from various walks of life, and instead of this serving to unify us and to strengthen our claims of Christ, it has turned messy. The family of God gets broken. We split, we argue, we point fingers, name each other's sins, condemn each other to hell. We drift apart and become inclusive to those who look, think and live like us. We become unfaithful as a people to God, forgetting that we have been called not to defend Him and His character, but to reflect it.
It has been sobering this week to be reminded that even though we, the church continue to miss the mark, God continues to be faithful. God continues to be Sovereign. No matter how pure or noble our intentions are, at times, we get it wrong. The church isn’t perfect. But God is.
In Matthew, Jesus says that He will build His church, and not even the gates of Hell will overcome it. I can't help but think, if the gates of hell cannot overcome it, then the recklessness of men cannot overcome it, the pride and insecurities of our church leaders cannot overcome it, the unorthodoxies and hypocrisies of us who claim to love the church will not overcome it. What a humbling reminder that God's faithfulness always trumps ours.
Despite our hiccups, our wrong turns, our hurtful words, and our forgetfulness...God keeps building His church, and continues to ask us to be a part of it. We won't get it right on this side of His Kingdom. We, as a messy people, will make---do make God's church imperfect. But perhaps by refocusing our eyes on the goal, not the obstacles, by keeping in mind our promised future--an eternally perfected community living in the presence of our Almighty God, and becoming more mindful that it is our calling to reflect His character and not to defend it, we will be able to find unity in Christ and will become a people know by our love.
Today I am humbled by a perfect God who continues to call this imperfect woman, to serve, to love, and to be an active member in His church, proclaiming His remarkable story of redemption and faithfulness to the ends of the earth.