Do You Love the Church of Christ? by: Dan Gulley, Smithville, TN
Many people feebly attempt to excuse themselves from any connection with or responsibility to the church of Christ with a lame and worn out excuse, saying, “The church is full of hypocrites.” The best retort to that I’ve heard is, “Don’t let that hold you back. There’s room for one more.” Let’s keep it real — the church has her fair share of hypocrites. Hypocrites are not people who never sin or make any kind of misstep, but instead people who talk the talk but don’t intend to walk the walk. Jesus described as those who “say and do not” (Matthew 23:3b). While true hypocrites hang around the church, attempting to fake others out, the God who “knows the hearts of all” (Acts 1:24b) sees right through all the masks and facades people attempt to wear (Hebrews 4:13). The plain, simple, Biblical truth is no congregation of the Lord’s people on earth has any perfect people in its pews, “no not one … for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10 23). As has often been said, “The church is not a museum for saints. It is a hospital for sinners.” And if we deny that and claim perfection? God has something blunt to anyone so arrogant as to make that assertion, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us . . . If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:8, 10).
But there are two sides to every coin, and especially when it comes to Christ’s church. Everyone needs to consider this hope-saturated statement: “I may not be perfect, but Jesus thinks I’m to die for.” But Jesus did more than think – He acted on what He thought! At the cross we clearly see He “tasted death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9). In the context of speaking about God’s desire that every person come to a saving knowledge of the Gospel, the apostle Paul succinctly stated that Christ “gave Himself a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:4-6). There may be times when you and I are tempted to not think much of ourselves or each other, but “Jesus thinks you and I are to die for.” Focus a little tighter now. The fact that no perfect Christian and / or perfect church exists does not give anyone, sinner of saint, the right derisive or dismissive of the church! Like it or not, agree with it or not, love her or loathe her, serve in her or avoid her like the plague — that doesn’t change the Biblical fact and spiritual reality that the church occupies a place of supreme value and vital importance in God’s heart and plan! Christ Himself built her at cost of His own blood (Matthew 16:18 * Acts 20:28). He loves her so much He “gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25b). The church is “the body of Christ” (Ephesians 1:122-23); the “bride of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2); the “family” of God (Ephesians 3:14). She enjoys the highest privileges but at the same time highest purpose and responsibility of any group on earth (1 Peter 2:9-10). God knows everything you now or ever will know (and more) about the church’s human foibles and flaws and failures, and thinks the church was well worth loving and dying for. We sing, “I love Thy Kingdom Lord, The church our blest Redeemer saved With His own precious blood” (“I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord”; Timothy Dwight, 1800). Question is do we say with our lives what we sing with our lips. Do you love the church of Christ?