Church Identity

We often to fail to realize what is important until it is taken away. I learned this painful lesson earlier this year while playing street baseball with my daughter. She hit a grounder right to me—I scooped up the ball and, as I turned to tag her out, my feet slipped on the layer of pollen coating the road. Before I knew it, I was flying face-first to the ground. I jerked out my arms instinctively and collided with the cement. I immediately knew something was wrong —my left arm felt different. I looked down and saw my elbow pointing in the wrong direction, quite obviously dislocated, like one of those gruesome sports injuries they show repeatedly on ESPN.

During a long trip to the ER, the doctor reset my elbow but the recovery was just beginning. I was reduced to using one arm for several weeks and it amazed me how thoroughly it affected my everyday life. I couldn’t tie my shoes or type. Putting on a button-down shirt was a form of torture. Things as simple as putting on deodorant or trying to get comfortable in bed became a grueling challenge. Apparently, elbows are a big deal. I had to (temporarily) lose it to understand.

My pain is nothing compared to the challenges, grief, and loss facing our nation during the COVID-19 crisis. The death of a loved one, collapse of a family business, unemployment, canceled weddings, and empty funerals mark this crisis. Such times of pain remind us of what we so easily take for granted, such as a warm hug or dinner with a friend. We fail to realize what is important until it’s taken away.

It has been ten weeks since we last gathered for corporate worship. Christians across the world could not physically gather together to celebrate the Resurrection on Easter Sunday. It’s a loss, and one we should grieve.

But I cannot think of a better time to reflect on the beauty of the Church than a time in which we are separated. Even as we look to gather again soon, we will continue to live under a cloud of uncertainty. I pray this difficult season reminds us of what we have been given.

This the first in a series of articles discussing our need for a more biblical view of the Church if we wish to advance a faithful presence in our increasingly secular culture. We must rise above the individualistic, consumeristic, and instrumentalist views of the Church that are so common among Christians. Instead, we need to reclaim the biblical metaphors that describe the Church as Christ’s Body, the household of God, the temple of God, and God’s chosen people.

Within these images is an acknowledgment of the individual—the body has parts, the family has members, the temple is made of stones, and God’s chosen people assumes individuals—but each sub-unit only finds its meaning within the whole. The completed temple gives meaning to the stones, the family is larger than each person, the whole body interacts with the world, and God’s people were chosen together.

Such a view of the Church empowers us to remain faithful to Jesus while also providing a prophetic witness to our world.

 

 

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