Learning to Love the Church
Loving the church as her Savior does
It has been over fifty years since I first started following Christ and was committed to the local church. I love the church, but I have found that it can be challenging and difficult and times. Yes, even for someone who has been in pastoral ministry for nearly forty-three years! It is no mystery why Dan Kimball’s 2007 book, They Like Jesus but Not the Church, was widely read and resonated with so many. Is it possible to despise and divorce yourself from the body of Christ and still follow Jesus? Is it possible to really love the Savior if I do not love the one he gave his life for?
The New Testament gospels and epistles are written in the context of real people facing real problems in real places amid real circumstances. All of life’s celebrations and tensions are included in the Scriptures. Reading Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth might lead us to believe that the congregation demonstrated nothing but Christian love and harmony--a picture of people considering others better then themselves. He refers to them as sanctified saints who call upon the name of Jesus Christ. Yet, as we read the letter, we are informed that the congregation is dysfunctional. Paul addresses concerns such as divisions, arrogance, sexual immorality, unresolved disputes, divorce idolatry and the absence of love, just to name a few. It would be fair to say that the church was no different than world. What do we know about this church and its community and culture?
The church was established by the Apostle Paul in the city of Corinth of Greece. It sat at the western end of the isthmus between central Greece and the Peloponnesus. It was a strategic location for trade and industry, particularly ceramics. On one side of the city is located the 1,800-foot-high flat-topped rock that in ancient times contained the temple of Aphrodite, goddess of love. It was this temple that gave the city its reputation.
In 146 BC, Corinth was razed by Rome because of its social revolution. In 46 BC, under the direction of Caesar, the city was rebuilt and prospered once again. At the peak of its power and influence the city had a free population of 200,000 and 500,000 slaves who served in its navy and various colonies. Is it possible that the church found it impossible to think and behave different than that of the culture from which it came?
It is easy for those for whom Christ died to think and live as if the gospel never reached them. Yet, Paul views and treats this congregation as those who do belong to Christ. To follow Jesus means that we would view and treat the church in the same manner as that of the Apostle. This is what it means to follow Jesus. Yes, it is challenging. It will take a great deal of the fruit of the Spirit to want to do it and accomplish such a desire.
Lord, you died for those who so often think and act like the world. By your grace, I am asking that you enable me to please you as I love your bride, the church.
Chuck Garriott is the founder and Executive Director of Ministry to State.