- J.R.R. Tolkien
I was flipping through my journal today and came across something I wrote on October 25, 2013:
"'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you [Jesus being the Christ], but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.' Matthew 16:18.
"No matter what 'problems' there are in the church- the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Jesus will WIN."
Most people know that one of my biggest struggle this year, and in my spiritual journey, is that I've had a lot of anger towards the church (well, a specific church). It kind of just snuck up on me slowly but surely. I've never been one to be angry towards church or towards God but this year, before I knew it, I was playing the victim and the church had harmed me. Even today, it has been easy to criticize the church and find the ways that they are wrong or have wronged me.
Therefore, I pulled away. I don't think it was noticeable from the outside. I still went to church. But I had an arms reach to the people there and took everything that was said with a grain of salt. I sat back and took on the role of critic instead of being an active member in the body.
It affected me. It affected me big time. But, it affected me slowly. It didn't happen over night but each day as I turned from community and to agreeing ears, I was just turning more and more cold. I did talk it through with certain third party people that I trust and love and they always gave me good advice that I needed to hear. But, once you let bitterness into your life-- it's really hard to get it out.
I read this verse along time ago and wrote down that small statement with it. I think it spoke to me then but it really hit me yesterday. I so easily pick at the problems and magnify the bad and try to find ways that I'm right and I'm better than them but I failed to realize that there are always going to be problems. You will never find a perfect church. It's not out there. The church is made up of a bunch of imperfect humans. Every church community has it's weaknesses. People have been legitimately hurt by some people in the church. But the church was established by Jesus himself. The church was established on perfection and on grace. The church was established on faith that JESUS is Lord. And Jesus made a promise: the gates of hell cannot and will not prevail against the church. The church is not going anywhere. The devil can't touch it. No matter how much junk is in the church, the doorpost has been painted with the blood of the lamb and we are saved from death. The only way that the devil can reach the church is by stealing it's people. It's by grabbing on to people like me who let a seed of some small situation grow into a weed of hurt, bitterness, and anger. The only way the devil gets power is if we give him power. If we turn from the church, we share the same enemy as the devil.
I'm speaking to myself first and foremost because I need to hear this: it is a dangerous road you travel when you criticize the church. Jesus LOVES the church therefore we, as his followers, must love it too. Church isn't just an option that is there. It is the key to victory. Without it, we would lose. This religion isn't about individuals believing in the same God. It's about God gathering his people back to him. We can't do this alone. We weren't made to do it alone. We need the church. We need to love the church. We need to care for the church. We need to see the church be changed and grow in love and wisdom and truth.
The church needs you. The church needs what you have to say and what you think. The church needs your gifts. The body of Christ needs you. We can't turn towards each other. We must stand as one. It seems difficult in this world of many opinions and interpretations but we stand on the ROCK. We have a sure foundation. We have the Word. We have the lamb. We cannot fail.
I don't have to let the problems of the church defeat me because Jesus died on the cross for those problems. And, hopefully, if the community of believers are seeking God, he will sanctify the church into more Christ-likeness with every passing day.
The church isn't perfect. But Jesus is. And when God looks at the church, he sees Jesus. Jesus came to die for his church.
I repent of the ways that I have bashed the church. I repent for not extending grace the same way it has been extended to me. I repent of expecting people to know and understand me fully. I repent of judging others who see things differently than me. I repent of letting anger boil in my heart. I repent of turning cold. I repent of my passivity.