What is “the Church?”
A. Brick walls, a fellowship hall, pews lined up just right
B. Home of the modern-day Pharisee
C. Where you go/send others to be judged and lectured
D. Where you go on Sunday for your VIP access to the Pearly Gates After Party
The correct answer is: E. None of the Above.
I’m sure you knew that. But I’m also fairly certain that most of us want to answer that question with: E. All of the above.
The Church is not a building. It’s not a place of judgement. It’s not a place of salvation. That VIP access? Yeah, there’s only one way you can get that: by grace through faith – not by works!
The Church is the Body of Christ, composed of every soul who has accepted Christ as Lord over all. Y’all, we are the Church!
But somewhere along the way, we forgot what those words meant. We forgot that we were lovingly adopted into this divine Family. We forgot that we were given grace to enter the Kingdom of God. We forgot that we were shown mercy so that we could enter the presence of God. We forgot that we are the Church, not by what we have done, but by what HE has done: lovingly, graciously, mercifully.
Not only that, but we are brothers and sisters in this! It’s not just that Christ died for ME, adopted ME, loved ME. But it’s that He died for every single one of you too. It’s that He lovingly adopted every single person at my local church (and yours) into His family. It’s that He loves every single person on this planet who has ever existed, who exists now, and who will exist in the future with a Love that can never be understood on this side of eternity.
The first part of 1 Thessalonians 1:4 says that we are “brothers [and sisters] loved by God.”
Take a moment to think about that. Those 4 little words carry 2 amazing truths:
- Personal: Each of us as separate individuals are loved by God.
- Interpersonal: Our personal relationship with God connects us to one another in a giant, crisscrossed, beautifully tangled web of Love.
Okay guys, I’m kinda weird and I really don’t like to see anything “tangled” or “crisscrossed” or unorganized. But this… this web of Love – this is beautiful y’all.
God Himself connects our hearts to His. But He doesn’t stop there. He connects our hearts to one another – to every other person that has been and will be adopted into His family. I see such incredible, indescribable, beauty in this. This isn’t the messy, sticky web spun in a few short minutes by a spider that is trying ever-so-diligently to trap the giant human walking out of the front door. This is a web that was intricately woven together, piece by piece, heart by heart, by an Artist whose works are priceless and beyond compare.
Friends, we are the Church. We are siblings in the family of God. Our hearts have not been connected by human means, but by divine Hands. And as these Hands tie one heart to another, we get a glimpse of the wounds which marred them. We get a glimpse of the Hands that were pierced for each of us, for all of us. Although we are connected by divine measures, at our core, we are sinful humans, faulty humans, erring humans. We are prideful. We are arrogant. We are selfish. We are pompous. We are legalistic. We are manipulative. We are liars. We are instigators. We are tempted. We are tempters. We are foolish.
I fail. You fail. Every single one of us fails. But in these moments, the Lord shows us grace and mercy. He forgives us. He restores us. He builds us up again – stronger, wiser, better. If the Lord is able to forgive us when we disappoint Him, if our Father, who adopted us into His family on no merit of our own can forgive us, shouldn’t we follow in His example? Shouldn’t we forgive one another? Shouldn’t we be gracious and merciful to one another? After all, we are brothers and sisters.
If I refuse to forgive my sister, I am in reality, refusing to forgive the one for whom Jesus died. If I refuse to forgive my brother, I am in reality, refusing to forgive the one whom Jesus deemed worthy of forgiveness. He is the rightful judge. I am not.
We are the Church. We are brothers and sisters loved by God. We are a web of love. If we leave the “love” part out, all we are is a gross, sticky web that no one wants to get stuck in. People will swat us out of the way and avoid us at all costs. That is exactly the opposite of what we should desire as the Church, the Body of Christ!
The purpose of the Church is to make Him known, to spread His fame, to bring others to Him! How can we do that if our actions do nothing but drive people away?
The Church is not a building. It’s not where you go to get to heaven. It’s not where you go to be judged. But that’s what the world thinks it is. That’s what some of us think it is. We’ve watered down and degraded the original meaning and intended purpose of the Church through our actions. We’re so consumed with our own selfish desires and ambitions that we have failed to see this alarming and disheartening reality: The world no longer sees Christians as “Christ followers,” but rather, as people who have simply taken on a new nickname. We’re just another stereotype.
We claim to be holy and pure and loving and gracious. But we don’t even show that love to our own brothers and sisters in the family of God. If we can’t love our own siblings, how can we love the world? If we can’t love those who are like us, how can we love those who are from different backgrounds, broken backgrounds, traumatic backgrounds?
We are the Church.
It’s not a building. It’s not something you cross off on your to-do list. It’s not where you send someone for a good talking to. It’s US.
Brothers and sisters loved by God, I implore you: Forgive. Be gracious. Listen. Be meek. Stand for Truth. Seek the Lord always. Pray constantly, consistently. Love.
Love, love, love, and then when you feel like your heart is empty, love some more.