the harlot church

lately, i have been engaging in much ecclesiological conversation.  my thoughts and heart have been heavy with it.  what is the church?  really.  what is Christ's desire for His beloved?  how should the body function?  be organized?  treat its members?  how should the bride conduct herself in services and in service?  what really matters?  which matters are of internal importance or simply trivial peripherals?  what should we hold sacred and be impassioned about?  what are the issues that provoke righteous indignation?  what are the non-issues that make us draw lines and choose sides and divide?  what is Biblical?  what are we to do? from the organic church movement to church planting to liturgy.  there is much to weigh.  much to discern.  in the past few weeks, i have read posts and articles and engaged in many meaningful conversations on this topic.  and it would seem that everyone has something to say.  some great expression of appreciation toward their church home.  and yes, even some great wounds which have been inflicted upon them.  it is messy.

and why would we expect differently?  the body of Christ is comprised of us.  humans.  sinners.  all of us sojourners.  making our way through this life on our journey to eternity.  sometimes, the way is especially hard.  steep.  dark.  murky.  thorny.  we wield our sword as we cling to the truth and hack our way through the brush.  there are fiery trials.  there are thorns in the flesh.  and we carry on.  yoked together.  buoying each other.  making mistakes.  getting up again.  holding one another accountable.  praying that God will show us a sign for good.  yet again.  searching for glimmers of the heavenly.  fixing our eyes on the Son.  this world is not our home.  but the local church is our haven.  we cling to the Rock.  we lift our voices in praise together.  we raise hands.  we lay hands.  we offer fragrant sacrifices of prayer and worship.  we pore over the pages of His Word.  he hold fast to His promises.  we wade into each other's lives.  we spur one another on.  we sharpen.  He plucks and prunes and refines.  at times, the church is our hospital.  our sanitorium.  our breezy and quiet place by the still waters.  a place of restoration.  we join together and bask in His presence.  we enter into the Holy of Holies.  we are accepted.  we are adored by our Bridegroom.  and we magnify the Lord together with all that is within us.

truly, what a glorious thing.  how marvelous.  what a gift.  we are the body of Christ.  His hands and feet.  His bride.  His beloved.

and yet, this holy church is asked to function in a fallen world.  sin.  broken relationships.  emotions.  opinions.  pride.  insecurity.  judgement.  sin.  the church is imperfect.  its cornerstone is sure, its blueprints perfect, but it is made up of imperfect humanity.  it is in constant need of reformation.  His chosen ones coming together, engaging, serving, and holding the church to the standards of the Scripture.  course-correcting.  reforming.  restoring orthodoxy and orthopraxy.  just as individuals, the church is in constant need of reorienting to the gospel.  it is not for us to sit back and cast judgement.  it is not for us to wag our fingers.  tsk-tsk.  it is not for us to criticise and let our hearts become bitter.  it is not for us to be separated from the body.  we need the body.  we are needed by the body.  we are to roll up our sleeves.  link arms.  lean forward.  look up.  and set ourselves to the task of reformation.  to the great mission of restoring all things unto Him.

Let's not forget that the church does a lot right. It is a body animated by the Holy Spirit, connected to the risen Christ. And Christ loves her, far more than we ever could, even if she's ugly and dysfunctional at times. As Dorothy Day once wrote, "Though she is a harlot at times, she is our Mother." We may have a love-hate relationship with the church, but Christ's love for her is unyielding. And we're called to love her in the same way. We should celebrate her accomplishments far more enthusiastically than we lament her faults.

Kevin P. Emmert, Christianity Today Blog

and so, although the church can be a harlot - we stray, we sin, we are unfaithful - we show love to her.  we cherish her.  we pray for her.  we extend grace.  and most importantly, we work to reform her and restore her.  to keep her in a right relationship with her Bridegroom.

there is much work to do.  let not the workers be few.