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April 3, 2007 / beidson

Loving Jesus and Hating Church: Mission Impossible

A flyer taped to a local pizzeria-bar, advertising a Bible study, reads: “We’re sorry that the church is a bunch of self-righteous bastards.” Evidently, the leader of this Bible study has a real problem with people in churches, but what he may have failed to understand is that his problem is really with Jesus Christ.

The church is not disconnected from Christ, despite what people in churches may sometimes do or fail to do. Sure, people in churches are sinful and many times are guilty of terrible things, but the truth of the matter is that the church can only consist of these type of people. There is no room for “righteous” people in the church. Only sinners are allowed.

Lest I be accused of advocating sin, let me be clear that I am not. Sin has no place in the believer’s life; nevertheless, we will sin. And the point is this: where sin abounds, grace abounds even more (Romans 5:20).

Scripture tells us, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Do we think that Christ came to save anyone but sinners? He did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32).

Who does this man think will come to his Bible study? People who are not self-righteous? Does this man think that he is not self-righteous? The truth is that we are all guilty before God (Romans 3:20).

The problem with having a problem with the church is that Christ died for the church, and he loves the church, and he is the head of the church, and he has promised that the gates of hell could not advance against the church. The problem with having a problem with the church is that you have a problem with Christ, and that is not a position in which anyone would want to be.

The church is the bride of Christ. Ephesians tells us that “Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior” (5:22). Therefore, the church must submit to Christ. Husbands are commanded to love their wives “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her” (vv 25-26). In fact, marriage itself is a profound mystery that refers to Christ and the church (v 32). In other words, when you have problems with the church, you have problems with her husband, Jesus Christ.

This is not to say that we can never be critical of the church, or people in the church, or that we can’t oppose certain ideas coming out of the church, but we must always do so with the intent to “sanctify her.” After all, if you’re a believer, you’re part of the same body that you have a problem with. So then, you’re intent to correct the problem should be motivated by love and concern, not bitterness and hatred. After all, “no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church” (v 29).

Do you have a problem with the businessman in your church, who professes faith in Christ, but has done bad business with you? Yes? Well go to him and correct the matter, and regardless of his response, pray for him and seek to be reconciled to him, lest you be guilty of sin and bear the weight of unforgiveness.

Do you have a problem with the lady who seemed so sweet in the foyer of the church, but spread rumors about you in the basement of her friend’s home? Well go to her and correct the problem, and seek to be reconciled to her.

Remember, Christ loves these sinful people because they have turned to him for forgiveness. And remember, you too are guilty of sin. We should not excuse sin, but that is not an excuse to excuse ourselves from church. It is impossible to love Christ and hate the one he loves. Any hatred you direct at the church is ultimately directed at Christ himself.

Perhaps the sign on the door should read: “The church is for sinners. Welcome.”

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