Loving Jesus and Loving the Church Go Hand-In-Hand
In some circles it’s pretty cool these days to love Jesus and hate the Church. The last 20 years or so has seen the number of anti-church voices rise significantly, with books and blogs and entire movements surfacing that are almost singularly built on the idea that Jesus is awesome but his followers are not. The labels of Christians being intolerant, judgmental, and hypocritical aren’t just being slung around by those outside the Church, but also by those on the inside. As a result, there are more and more people who are happy to be a follower of Jesus but want absolutely nothing to do with the Christian Church.
I have written about this before, but here all I want to point out is that faith in Jesus and love for his followers are two things that simply go hand-in-hand. You can’t really have one without the other. To do so is to divorce two things that are meant to be inseparable. Certainly, I can understand why many people have issues with the Christian Church. We all do, and there are valid criticisms to be levied against it. But the obvious truth is that Christians are still sinners saved by grace, and we are all in the process of being redeemed and sanctified, so it shouldn’t surprise any of us that local churches are messy and filled with flawed people. After all, those are the only kind of people Jesus came to save.
To love Jesus but hate the church is flat-out wrong. It is more than a personal preference or a personality quirk or a minor theological difference. It is sin. The Church is the bride of Christ. How can someone say they love Jesus and yet slander his bride? How can someone hate the Jesus’ bride when they themselves are supposedly part of that very bride? If a Christian chooses to follow Jesus but wants nothing to do with the Christian church, they are living in a delusion. They have fooled themselves into thinking that Jesus is only interested in his personal relationship with them and not with his gathering for himself a people to glorify him. Read the New Testament; the language of Jesus purchasing a people for himself is everywhere (Acts 20:28, Revelation 5:9, 1 Corinthians 6:20, 1 Peter 2:9, John 10:27).
Actually, you don’t even have to research the entire New Testament. Just read Colossians 1:3-5…
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.
What is so plain in Paul’s mind is that faith in Christ and love for the saints go together. They are not separate realities. If you really love Jesus, then you’ll love people who love Jesus. It is literally the most unifying force in the world. Nothing brings people together more than a common love for Christ. If Jesus is my Saviour, my Lord, and my Treasure, and that is true for you too, then we can overlook all kinds of differences to share the same joy in our God.
When Christians try to posit that they are all in on Jesus but not the Church, it shows they either don’t understand what Jesus is all about, or they don’t understand what the Church is, or they simply aren’t born again and don’t understand either one. It is a sign of apostasy at worst and of spiritual immaturity at best. Now, that doesn’t mean we won’t have our issues with other believers. But it is one thing for brothers to sometimes fight, and quite another to simply abandon your family.
Therein lies the rub. The Christian Church is a family. God is our Father, Jesus is our big brother, and we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. Through the cross we have been adopted into God’s family, which means we are in this thing together. You can’t be adopted into a family, want nothing to do with that family, and then reap the benefits that family affords. It doesn’t work that way. Ultimately it is an issue of pride. Either you think you are too good to have the rest of us as brothers and sisters or you think our Dad stinks at picking his kids.
I don’t want to be entirely unsympathetic. I know that some people have been hurt by the Church. For some, the imperfections and sometimes even the grievous sins of the Church have made deep wounds. I’m not going to pretend like it doesn’t happen. But if you are outright blaming the Church for those things, and not the sin that still exists within the Church, you are pointing the finger in the wrong place. The problem is not the Church. The problem is sin, and sin exists even inside the Church and will continue to do so until Jesus finishes his cleansing work and presents himself a bride without spot or blemish on the last day.
My simple message to any Christian who hates the Church is this: a wedding day is coming, and if you are trying with all your might to love the groom but not identify as the bride, you just might find yourself on the outside looking in.