In restarting my writing in this space, I ran through a series of post ideas. The first post that came to mind was something critical of the Church and its practices, seeking to push buttons, evoke a reaction. In some ways, the name of the blog lends itself to this: “Confronted by Christ.” Confrontation for us generally carries negative connotations, as evidenced by most people’s tendency to try to avoid it.
As I thought about writing that post, I was struck by easy it would be. Perhaps it is because the Church is an easy target. It is full of hypocrites by necessity; what we profess eclipses the lives we are able to live. Perhaps it is because the Church makes us uncomfortable. It takes the most intimate parts about us, our relationship with God and others, and demands that we live that out in community. Perhaps it is because so many have had such negative personal experiences, whether it is women being shunted aside from opportunities to lead, people being alienated from the “core” of the church, or any other of a myriad of hurtful things that take place in broken community.
It’s easy to criticize. There is, of course, a place for criticism. It is hard to deem the Old Testament prophets, or even our Lord Jesus, as “tolerant” of misguided notions and poorly led lives.
But I feel convinced that what is needed at this juncture are people who love the Church. True, constructive criticism can only come from such a position.
The Church is not a comfortable thing to love. That should not particularly surprise us. We know ourselves, the dark secrets we wish to keep hidden, the tendencies that surprise even us at times. Yet Christ loves us. Out of that powerful reality, he invites us to love one another and even, yes, the Church.
Loving the Church is not in vogue, it is not the cool thing to do. But imagine a world in which Christians loved the Church, not because it is perfect or because it magically fulfills all their “needs,” but because the Church is Christ’s Bride, and what is loved by our Lord merits our love as well.
Ironically, perhaps the call to love the Church is more confronting to our own tendencies than criticism of it. The call to faithfulness to the Church, and thereby, to Christ is challenging in a consumeristic orientation towards Church. Yet, this is always the deepest confrontation Christ offers us; confronting us to love the things we may feel are unloveable. For some of us the unloveable is the Church. And so our greatest challenge is to love it.
May the Spirit renew our hearts that we may love the Church with the same love with which Christ loved us.