Tuesday, September 9, 2008

His Beloved Whore (go read Hosea)


The church is a whore but she's my mother. - St. Augustine

I'm getting tired of listening to people criticize the church, and I choose the word "criticize" very carefully. Not rebuke, admonish, or call out. You can rebuke someone in love. You can call someone out on their destructive behavior because you love them and care what happens to them. But when you criticize, you are putting a wall between yourself and that person; labeling them as bad and separating yourself from them.

[I may need to stop here and define "the Church." Let's go with this: the gathering of God's people for the purpose of worship. So when I say church I'm talking specifically about people who are gathered together to worship God, not just the general idea of all Christians everywhere. Notice that the concept of people gathering implies a particular space and time.]

It is absolutely true that the church needs rebuking, and you can start with me. Of all the things the church is criticized for, I'm sure I am guilty of most (if not all) of them. Hypocrisy? Check. Idolatry? Check. Impure motives? Self-absorption? Self-righteousness? Check, check, and check. So I guess this is why I don't see you on Sunday? Because church is full of people like me?

Here's why I don't get it: Sure, we're hypocrites. Yes, we miss the point. Ok, we come for the wrong reasons sometimes. But isn't it still worth it? Even if I waste half the time worshiping any number of idols (the great band, the sound of my own voice, the intellect of the pastor), if I experience even one moment of true worship... one moment where I put self aside and bow before the God of the universe... isn't that beyond worth it? Even if I miss what the pastor is saying because I'm trying to figure out where the girl in front of me got her dress... if the Holy Spirit breaks through my shallowness and reveals the truth of God's word, how blessed am I? What grace, what beautiful overflowing grace, that God still pierces through my human nature and reveals His presence.

This happens to me every Sunday morning. In the midst of my sinfulness, my idolatry, my blindness... God shows up. I see Him in the words of ancient prayers and hymns. I remember Him as I come to the communion table. I feel His peace as I join my voice with others' in prayer.

Are there hypocrites at church? Yeah. Is there corruption, greed, and self-righteousness? Yep. Somehow even still... Is God moving among His people? YES. Can He break through our sin and allow us to worship Him in spirit and truth? YES. Has God abandoned His bride? Never. So bring on the rebuke, call me out. But do it in love, because God loves the church.

2 comments:

serenity said...

This is a great post. (I followed your link from Jason Boyett's blog). Your point here, "if I experience even one moment of true worship", is something I plan to blog about soon as well. It's exactly why I still believe in going to church. I love those moments, in communion, the sermon, or in worship songs, when the truth of what Jesus did for us comes front and center in my heart and mind. It's definitely worth it. There are many factors for why it's been a while since I attended regularly. I couldn't possibly explain them in a blog comment. And as you say, we all have a little hypocrisy. Mine has been not going to church despite the fact that I still believe in it.

Haley Ballast said...

Thanks for the comment, Serenity. I'm glad that the post resonated with you... I hope you find yourself experiencing one of those 'moments' in worship soon.