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Jesus Loves His Church, So You Should Too

This is an excerpt adapted from The Unfinished Church: God’s Broken and Redeemed Work-in-Progress by Rob Bentz (May 2014).


A Troubling Narrative

The “I love Jesus, but I hate the church”  narrative has become commonplace within the Christian culture today. Library shelves of books and articles have been written about the issue. Facebook posts and tweets touting this antichurch brand of Christianity are rampant. And for the most part, it has become increasingly accepted as a viable option on the smorgasbord of living out your Christian faith. “As long as you love Jesus,” many in our culture say, “You’re good!”

Really? This is biblical faith? This is a faith lived out according to the Scriptures?

The apostle Paul explained the heart of unity among believers when he wrote to the saints in Ephesus, “There is one body and one Spirit . . . one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4–6). The very foundation of the church is built upon the Trinitarian God we worship and serve. There is one Spirit. There is one Lord. There is one God and Father. And through faith in this Trinity—we are one. We are one body. We experience one baptism. And this Trinity is over all, through all, and in all. The Trinity cannot be separated.

Because of the oneness of God, and our being welcomed into communion with this Trinity, we enter into relationships with other members of this body covered in the grace of God. As we are in relationship with the Trinity—we are one. Period. How is it then that those of us who have faith and are welcomed into this body think that we can remove ourselves? How can a God-fearing, Bible-believing, Jesus-T-shirt-wearing, ichthus-symbol-bearing Christ follower just take his Bible and go home? Good question, without a solid answer. It’s not right thinking; rather it’s wrong believing.

The Church of the Mirror

But who needs the local church when I can have my sermons, my music, and my community the way I want them? At the Church of the Mirror there is no conflict. No struggle. No disagreement. And no real need for unity. Why bother? I can have it all!

Jesse Rice captures the problem at the center of this thinking.

We’d rather be consumers of relationships—taking the parts we want and leaving out the parts we don’t—than face dealing with all of home’s demands (and benefits). And so, unfortunately, we scratch our heads and wonder why we can’t seem to find the kind of community experience we’re looking for, all the while remaining willfully adolescent in our relational habits. (Jesse Rice, The Church of Facebook: How the Hyperconnected Are Redefining Community [Colorado Springs: Cook, 2009], 179)

There is precious little humility in the Church of the Mirror.  There is very little asking. Little listening. Little understanding. And even less forgiveness. When the church spins on the axis of me—my needs, wants, preferences, and all-important opinions—there is little room for anyone else. Especially someone who doesn’t agree with the views represented in my mirror—because those views are deeper than they appear.

Don’t Talk About My Bride That Way!

According to Scripture, the church is the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:25–27; Revelation 19:7–9). When we speak poorly of the church, we’re speaking of Jesus’s bride.  Think about that for a moment. Our condemning and hurtful comments directed at the church are addressed to the bride of our Savior. Do you suppose that Jesus is just fine with our angst? Do you believe he’s happy about the insults we so casually hurl at his bride? Do you think he says: “Go ahead, fire away! Whatever you say is probably true. She’s a loser. I never really loved her all that much anyway?” Any man that I know who has even a small amount of love, respect, care, or concern for his wife would be appalled!

The intriguing twist that I see in the “I love Jesus, but I hate the church” narrative is the two primary charges thrown at the bride of Christ—a judgmental spirit and a lack of forgiveness—are the very issues that lie at the heart of the angst people have with the church. First, a spirit of judgment toward what the church hasn’t been, hasn’t done, and ought to be doing. Next, a spirit that lacks forgiveness for the grievances the church has intentionally and unintentionally done to its people.

The Only Solution

The pent-up anger and frustration directed at the church often begins with one big offense or a series of smaller offenses, wounds, or attacks that go undisclosed and/or unforgiven. Over time, these offenses develop deep, twisted, tangled roots in the hearts and minds of the wounded. Bitterness has found a home. And it won’t easily go away.

But there is a solution—forgiveness.

Unity is the result of a great deal of heart-wrenching, God-seeking, others-forgiving effort. Jesus calls us to this immense personal and corporate challenge. Are you up for it?  Will you see your brothers and sisters in faith as your priests? Will you do the hard heart-work? Will you practice forgiveness?

The church needs you. And so does the watching world.


Rob Bentz (MDiv, Reformed Theological Seminary) is the pastor of small groups and spiritual growth at Woodmen Valley Chapel in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Rob has written numerous articles for various ministry websites and is currently a featured blog writer at ChurchLeaders.com. He and his wife, Bonnie, have two children and live in Colorado Springs. He is the author of The Unfinished Church: God’s Broken and Redeemed Work-in-Progress (May 2014).

 

February 12, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Church Membership,Community,Life & Doctrine,Ministry,The Church,Theology | Author: Crossway Author @ 8:35 am | (2) Comments »

2 Comments »

  1. Hi Mr Rob Bentz, I do recognize what you mean when you say “Jesus loves his church, so you should too.” However, at the same time, I do recognize that the church has a big role to play in this matter of “love Jesus and hate the church” trend.

    From my experience, when I was “causally hurling insults at the bride”, I was not “causally hurling insults.” I was hurting deep down inside and just screaming for the church to wake up from its slumber and start loving those who have been hurt by its actions.

    I believe there is persecution against the church and indeed one aspect of this “Love Jesus, hate the church” trend is part of it. However, on another aspect, the “angsty and judgemental” is indeed a reflection of how badly the church has behaved. The church as an organization has effectively pushed away many christians because of its lack of love in healing emotional wounds and explaining the bible’s stand on different matters.

    I do not think this article is helpful to young christians who read and do not love. Because it gives them “qualification” to speak against those Christians who have been hurt by the church.

    However, on another note, it is helpful to older mature christians, who perhaps at a point in their christian journey have been dazed by a sudden shot of pride and judged the church.

    Because in the end, loving one another in Christ is not to be reactive, but to take a pro-active step in loving one another.

    Comment by David — February 13, 2014 @ 8:48 am

  2. I think the question is define church the body of followers in Christ so therefore if a building / denomination of Christ followers converge to a building on sunday or Saturday and in those groups there are ones that twist bully and have a high on there horse status of membership and spew negative gossip towards another name to hurt (even if said thing is true) regardless you love the person and try to help them without exploiting there weakness and most of my experiences is the church attacks itself when they need to be focusing on the teachings of gods love and true word and yes sin needs to be exposed not to ridicule though to help in love to guide people to the right path. SO when somebody says I love Christ but don’t care for the church so much theres probably some good reasons maybe theres wolves in the flock and they’ve been astrocised wrongfully. Also which is the right denomination of followers in Christ seems like I see a lot of churches segregating themselves from echother by hate based on interpretations in the bible so they hate echother like Baptist against nazarine. What if one doesent pick a football team / church denomination and they pray and study the bible and have church group house to house there is a body of people in a building following Christ and surely they can teach salvation the word of god without being schooled to be a pastor. So I think the question is maybe people aren’t saying it rite when they say I don’t care for the church they didn’t like the wolves in the church as long as there with a group of Christ followers that are born again or they should stay with the church and point the wolves out wherever they may be and if you disagree with someone let them know with love and remember if your truly born again your both still followers in Christ going to heaven.

    Comment by Scott — March 15, 2014 @ 8:37 am

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