Love the Lord, but Not the Church
Well, you don't HAVE to go to church!
If I had a dollar for every time I heard this sentiment, I'd be a wealthy man. I used to blow it off as the retort of a person who is spiritually troubled. No more! Of course there are those who are truly persuaded that the church is irrelevant to modern life. They condescendingly smile at those of us who have aligned with a church. Gotta respect them and love them. But there are increasing hords of sincere people who long to know God but are turned off by what they see of the church. Having been stabbed a few times myelf by fellow churchmen and churchwomen, I've developed a heart for God-lovers but church-haters.
Let's start at the very beginning. (I know that wasn't very original) So God finds himself confronted with human beings created in his own image, but who are hostile, or at least indifferent toward him. While this hostility troubles God, it is self-destructive to human beings. God could have turned his back and allowed the destruction to take its course. Instead he set in motion a plan by which to arrest the destruction and reconcile human beings to himself, giving them new life and hope. The plan is a perfect reflection of God's personality. This covenant of grace, as it's known, also respects God's image imbedded in every human being whether or not he loves God. In other words, somehow God implements his plan without violating human significance. That's a mystery I don't expect ever to understand, but I accept it.
The core element of the covenant is that God's justice is respected while his love is expressed. How'd he pull that off? He, himself, chose to bear the just penalty for our sin. That is possible because God is one God in three persons. Another mystery. Did you expect to understand everything about an infinite God? In one act, Jesus on the cross satisfied both God's justice and his love. Those who know God humbly acknowledge they should have been on that cross and gratefully pledge their loyalty to Jesus.
The church then is the company of those who want to be loyal to their Savior. When people say they are turned off by the church, they usually have in mind a religious organization marked by a building, officers, distinctive practices and a budget, of course, to which members are expected to contribute. But at its core the church is first and foremost a company of people who long to worship and serve God. I say "long" because in this life, we'll never achieve perfection, thus the hurts we inflict on each other.
I'll have a lot more to write on this, but for now my question is, are you turned off by the organized church? or by people who profess to know God and want to follow him?
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