To love the church or not
I am going to tread close to a very fine line with this post. I was originally going to call it “I do not love my church.” But then I realized that I would be doing that just for effect and to anger people even before they read the post, so I repented of my pride and changed the title.
If I were to ask you if you love your church, you would probably answer me an emphatic “Yes!” But if I asked you if you love your best friend’s bride just as much as he loves his bride, would you again be able to tell me “yes?”
A quick theoretical story: Jim and his wife Mary have a lot of friends. Every week people show up at their house because they love their friends. Sometimes their friends bring people who Jim and Mary don’t even know. During one party, Jim’s best friend goes up to Mary and says he loves her. He said he loves her so much that he wants to start coming over a few times a week. He said he would even bring food with him so she didn’t have to cook. That is how much this friend of Jim’s loves Mary. Then, at the same party, a person who was brought by someone, a person Jim and Mary don’t even know, comes up to Mary and says, “This is such an amazing party! I love you Mary.” He then proceeds to tell Jim and Mary that he will be coming once a week, even though he knows nothing about Jim and Mary.
How would you react if someone went up to your bride and told her they loved her just as much as you did?
I’m sure that would not go over too well.
But that is precisely what is happening when you go to church every Sunday and tell everyone you love the church.
The church is not your bride. It is Christ’s.
I have been reading a lot of Scripture lately and not once do I find that we are to love the church as Christ loves the church. We are to love others. And, yes, sometimes those others make up the church. Sometimes they don’t. But we aren’t supposed to love those people any less.
If we claim to love our churches, we can easily fall into a sin of pride for our church. We can start judging other churches for what they have or don’t have and claim how we are better than other churches. In actuality, if the church is truly one following God’s call, then it is God’s church. It is not mychurch. It is not yourchurch. It is GOD’S church. There are two churches in Revelation that find favor with God: Smyrna and Philadelphia. Smyrna was poor yet endured. Philadelphia was filled with love for one another, faced persecution and endured.
Not one of them claimed to love the service. Not one of them claimed to love the building. Not one of them claimed to love the music. Those were all tools to help people understand the bridegroom, Christ.
So what am I required to love?
- Ephesians 5:25 says, I am to love my wife as Christ loves His church.
- 1 Corinthians 12:25-26 tells me that there are to be no divisions in the body but that if someone in the church is suffering that I am to suffer alongside them and if someone is honored that I am to rejoice with them.
- Ephesians 5:29-30 says, Christ nourishes and cherishes the church because we are members of the body of Christ.
- Colossians 3:15 informs me that I am to be thankful because I was called into the body of Christ.
- Ephesians 4:11-13 talks about the different roles in the church and that they are made to build up the body of Christ.
Not once are we told to love the church. We are to be one, we are the church.
The closer I can get to finding anything that would tell me to love the church comes in Jesus’ words to “love our neighbor as we love ourselves.” And, yes, we are to love ourselves in light of Christ. But that love is a very different love than the love we provide a spouse.
So please stop saying that you love your church. It opens us up to too much comparing of one church against another when what we really need is loving each member of the church universal so that we can all be built up into the body of Christ.
Fred Noble is a recruiter for a hospitality/retail recruiting firm. He is also an elder and leads a pastoral discipleship training ministry at Chesapeake Christian Fellowship in Davidsonville, Md. In his free time, he hangs out with his family and likes to read and write.www