Not So Bad. In Fact, Quite Good

It has become trendy in recent years to lament how much harm the church has caused. In some cases there is indeed much to lament: sex abuse scandals, for instance.  Yet, in many of these conversations I have found the “harm” to be rather vague. Language about hypocrisy or hurt feelings might be mentioned, but there really isn’t any harm that I can discern from most of the tales of hurt that I most often hear.

Rejecting the “hurt” of the church has become a trendy excuse for disassociating with the church.  One need not feel badly about walking away from the church since “they” are the problem.  There are many problems with this, of course.  If any place should be characterized by overcoming hurts and demonstrating forgiveness, it should obviously be the church – the people formed by the gospel of God’s forgiveness of sins through the gracious work of Jesus. Walking away short circuits that design.

It was a breath of fresh air, then, to read a blog recently in which one saint decided to give thanks for their church.  The article is entitled “I survived because of bible belt religion.”  The because of shows us this won’t be yet another lamentation about how bad the church is.  It is instead a demonstration of gratitude for the simple but imperfect people who embodied the faith. The author writes:

Our little church couldn’t boast of a single scholar. Our collars were blue, our necks were red, and our thumbs were green. The preacher sold insurance and tomatoes on the side. The hands that held the offering plates usually had axle grease under their nails…Our church was a houseful of simple people who simply loved the Lord.

“A houseful of simple people who simply loved the Lord.”  This should be our expectation of the church.  Not perfect people, not theological masterminds, not those the world esteems, but simple people who simply love the Lord.

As I look upon the church, and reflect on the churches that shaped me, this is what I see. May we have eyes to see the beauty of this kind of witness, rather than only seeing the imperfections.