This was supposed to be a super long post in response to a tricky question. A few weeks ago, I made a comment that even though I sometimes get frustrated with what I see as misaligned priorities among believers (particularly in this country), I still love the church.
One of my friends, who’s recently had some disillusioning experiences with people claiming to be Christians asked me to explain what I meant by that.
So I sat down at my laptop and started to write about the importance of corporate worship and the deep love that Jesus has for the church. I talked about the staggering number of times the New Testament talks about our faith in terms of community—the “one anothers” of the Bible (but really—check out the list). I even mentioned how living alongside other sinners is necessary and helpful, and why service—basically anytime we allow another Christian to inconvenience us—is important for our spiritual growth.
There were lots of bullet points and references and assorted true things…but something was missing. Sure, I appreciate all of those things, but it wasn’t a good answer to the actual question.
It’s kind of like if someone asked me why I love my twin sister. I could tell you all kinds of wonderful things about her—she’s strong and kind and dependable and deeply loyal in her love for God and others. I could name the things I enjoy doing with her—going on hikes or picking blueberries or playing board games. I could even describe what she’s done for me—intervening with superhuman common sense to keep me alive through childhood and adolescence, reminding me of the importance of budgeting and sending my parents birthday cards, challenging me to grow in my faith.
All of those things are true. None of them actually answer the question.
You see, I love my sister because she’s mine.
She’s family. There is nothing she could ever do to lose my love (or earn it, for that matter). I will always love her, no matter what, and it’s not because of all the—admittedly cool—things about her. I’d say the same for my parents and close friends and the jr. highers I mentor. It’s not about what they do for me, it’s about who they are.
Same with the church. It’s good to know some of the benefits of being part of a local church, or to understand why the global church matters, but that’s not why I love it.
I love the church because she’s mine. She’s family. I’ll never walk away from her, even when she’s frustrating. I’ll never give up on her, even if she breaks my heart.
At least, I hope and pray that’s true. So far, I’ve been blessed to be part of church communities that stayed true to what they said they believed. Oh, there were sinful people and difficult situations in all of them, but I’ve never been ignored by church leadership or betrayed by a fellow brother or sister. I realize that makes statements like mine much easier.
I also know our God is all about restoration, so if my story is nothing like yours and you’re about to give up and walk away, please. Listen just a moment longer.
I’m not saying you always need to stay in the building where you currently sit on Sundays. I’m just begging you not to give up on the family of God.
There is hurt here—some that we cause, some that is inflicted on us, and some that just seems like a domino-fall of misunderstandings and half-truths and disputes and bickering from the very first sin until now.
But there is also joy.
Sometimes that joy looks like a happy family photo, like coming home sunburnt and sticky from a dozen kids’ popsicle-stained hands after the baptismal service and praising God for what he’s done and is currently doing in the lives of people I love.
Other times joy is being called out on my pride by a fellow youth group leader or realizing that I can, actually, forgive a situation that once seemed irreconcilable. It’s listening to a hard application from a difficult sermon or facing a conversation I’ve successfully avoided for too long or once again wondering if the kids got anything out of lesson time other than how to pronounce Lazarus’ name and not being dead, maimed, or kidnapped.
But you know what? I promised the parents of those kids at their baby dedication three years ago that I would come alongside them and set an example for their children of someone who loved God with all her heart. I promised to be part of the family.
So here I am, now and always. And that is why I love the church.