One of the things I have had to remind myself of, at times, is that the church belongs to Jesus. The church doesn’t belong to me. The church doesn’t belong to the elders. The church belongs to Jesus. That means we need to lean on Jesus to do more of the heavy lifting because he has the more invested in what happens to his church than anyone else.
One of the greatest challenges in church life is seeing a flawless church composed of flawed people. This is especially true in ministry because as a minister, one has so much riding on how things go in the congregation. Often, a complaint doesn’t sound as bad to another member as it does to a minister because the minister has all their eggs in the church basket so it is hard to not pay attention to and internalize things that are hard to hear. Other times we ministers are the ones doing in the complaining. We want to see things go better. We are in this to improve things from how we found them. It is very easy to find ourselves being the ones doing the complaining even if it is in private.
But maybe there is another way to look at it. Just as you don’t go into marriage to change your partner, Jesus knows going in that we are a flawed people and He is okay with that. He loves us anyway. Here is what Paul said about this in Ephesians 5,
“25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.“
When people go into marriage expecting their spouse to change they are typically disappointed. Notice in what Paul said that Jesus isn’t looking for the church to change. Jesus is doing everything he can do on his end for her. He doesn’t put the burden on her. He takes the burden on himself. The reason he is able to do this is because of how he sees her. He sees her as his beloved so he doesn’t treat her with contempt. But sometimes we do. And we didn’t even “give ourselves up for” (read “die for”) the church.
So for many of us it is time to complain less and do more of our part in appreciating church. It is a challenge to see her as Christ sees her until we realize that we are part of her too and we are just as messed up as anyone else. The reason the church is flawed is because we are in it. Once we wrap our minds around that we can realize that giving grace to the church is actually extending grace to ourselves as well. Then we will truly be free to love her for who she is and not love her conditioned on her meeting our expectations because she isn’t married to us…we are married to him.