We have been studying as a church the importance of our relationship to one another as it relates to our spiritual maturity. So many people who used to be a part of the church have left due to pain caused by another member and in some cases, the leaders of the church themselves. People seem quite idealistic when it comes to the church. Many believe that once they join the church, they will never experience major pain or offense because, after all the church should be free of these type of things.
Well, truly where the lordship of Jesus is taught and where the Bible is extolled as the truth, people should be growing in maturity. But, perfection is found ONLY in Jesus Christ. As His disciples walk in love and truth, they grow up into Him. While this is happening, you still will find imperfections, even among Christ’s disciples. Final perfection in Christ will not be achieved until we see Him face to face.
Well, since imperfection exists in the church and since we will not achieve perfection until we see Christ face to face, many have decided that the whole “church” thing is not worth it. Why put up with the hypocrisy and pain if we don’t have to?
Well, who said we don’t have to?
Jesus told us that we should stay together. Let me read a few of His words from His prayer found in John 17 – this is from the Message Bible:
“For I’m no longer going to be visible in the world; they’ll continue in the world while I return to you. Holy Father, guard them as they pursue this life that you conferred as a gift through Me, so they can be ONE HEART AND MIND AS WE ARE ONE HEART AND MIND. I AM NOT ASKING THAT YOU TAKE THEM OUT OF THE WORLD but that you guard them from the Evil One. They are no more defined by the world than I am defined by the world. MAKE THEM HOLY–CONSECRATED WITH THE TRUTH;YOUR WORD IS CONSECRATING TRUTH.
THE GOAL IS FOR ALL OF THEM TO BECOME ONE HEART AND MIND–JUST AS YOU, FATHER ARE IN ME AND I IN YOU, SO THEY MAY BE ONE HEART AND MIND WITH US. THEN THE WORLD MIGHT BELIEVE THAT YOU, IN FACT, SENT ME. THE SAME GLORY YOU GAVE ME, I GAVE THEM, SO THEY’LL BE AS UNIFIED AND TOGETHER AS WE ARE–I IN THEM AND YOU IN ME. THEN THEY’LL BE MATURE IN THIS ONENESS, AND GIVE THE GODLESS WORLD EVIDENCE THAT YOU’VE SENT ME AND LOVED THEM IN THE SAME WAY YOU’VE LOVED ME.” (emphasis is mine)
What can we surmise from this prayer?
God’s goal is not just to save me, but to save me in community. I can’t separate myself from the mission of Jesus which is to unify the people of God. Pain may come in the midst of this mission, even from others in the church, but Jesus is not saying it is okay to check out of the corporate plan. We are to be made holy, not happy or comfortable. Corporate welfare is to be prized above personal happiness. Our testimony as being Christ’s disciples depends upon our faithfulness to this mission. Our maturity comes through this oneness, not in the absence of it. Love is visible only as we work together. Working alone reveals a wounded and doubting spirit. Through this corporate oneness and only through this mission will we see the glory of God.
Those who believe they can achieve personal growth absent from the church are really fooling themselves. According to the words of Jesus, maturity comes through our learning to forgive others, to trust God is in control, to humble ourselves, and learning to be longsuffering with other Christians.
Why do we judge others for imperfection when we are imperfect ourselves? This type of judgment condemns us as the hypocrite we judge others to be!
God forgive us! Some leave the church quietly so as to not create “a disturbance” while the whole time their plan is to create questions by their absence. They know others will call them and ask them where they are. They will say, “Well, Jesus told us our time there at the church was over” but if you dig deep, you find they left because of offense or disagreement.
When we do so, we forfeit the very opportunity for growth provided by the situation. How will we learn forgiveness unless forced to forgive? How will we learn humility unless forced to humble ourselves? How will we learn agape love unless we are forced to love when we don’t want to?
There is a reason they have vows in a wedding ceremony. It is because there will come a time when the feelings of love disappear and disappointments come. It is when this happens that we see the difference between those who are together for personal benefit and convenience and those together because of love and obedience.
You ever heard of a marriage in which one partner said they loved the other but they didn’t want to touch them or be around them?
The church is Jesus’ body. If you love Him, you will want to be around in good times and bad. If you love others, will it be any different? We are to be as one as the Father and His Son. Can you separate them? Did it cost Jesus any pain to be in relationship with you?
For, what God has joined together, let no man (that includes you) separate. Our testimony and maturity depend upon it!