After reading several of my posts, a pastor and friend gave me some advice wrapped in a warning: “Do not become someone who attacks the church. You don’t want to become that person.” What I think my friend misunderstands is that there is the Church, and then there is the church. It is the latter which I love and want desperately to succeed, and the former which I want to fail.
You see, the church and the Church are not the same thing. The church is the body of Christ, His bride; the universal fellowship of believers without walls or borders. I love the people of God desperately, so desperately that I feel pain at the hurt the Church does to its people. The Church is the organization which governs the church, and in it we have rendered many of the principles of the Christ weak or altogether worthless. I believe the Church failed the day it was co-opted as the official religion of Rome; the Church annexed and enslaved the church.
Do not misinterpret this post and believe I am full of hate for organized religion, hate for God’s Church, or hate for religious professionals. To help me to express my true feelings adequately, allow me to quote Gilbert K. Chesterton from his book Orthodoxy:
“No one doubts that an ordinary man can get on with this world: but we demand not strength enough to get on with it, but strength enough to get it on. Can he hate it enough to change it, and yet love it enough to think it worth changing? Can he look up at its colossal good without once feeling acquiescence? Can he look up at its colossal evil without once feeling despair? Can he, in short, be at once not only a pessimist and an optimist, but a fanatical pessimist and a fanatical optimist? Is he enough of a pagan to die for the world, and enough of a Christian to die to it? In this combination, I maintain, it is the rational optimist who fails, the irrational optimist who succeeds. He is ready to smash the whole universe for the sake of itself.”
If I hated the church I would simply ignore it. No, I love the church, and so I would smash the Church for the sake of itself. I hate the Church enough to change it, but I love it enough to think it worth changing.
What about you? Are you willing to both love and hate the church, to recognize both its colossal good and its colossal evil, and save it? Or will you be content with the shadow of what was, and what could be?