Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
Like when I treat myself to a dessert. Before I run. Because I'm rewarding myself in advance in case I do run.
Which sort of defeats the purpose.
And were we to take a straw poll, I bet quite a few of us could raise an honest hand on where we get things backwards. We make our marriage a priority once we hit a relationship crisis. We get serious about our health once we've damaged it. We make parenting our focus once our kids get into trouble.
I love church. I love the relationships, the music, the connection, the teaching. I love the marker in the week that it is, the beloved routine of going to church on a Sunday morning, eating Sunday lunch as a family, and the quiet afternoon of a Sunday nap.
I love what church does for me.
But somewhere in there, that idea of 'what church does for me' can get, well, backwards.
Somehow, our definition of 'church' has gotten backwards.
We think of church as an organization, a benevolence group, a bureaucracy devoted to helping people. Kind of a faith-based government of sorts. Just come to church and we'll meet your needs, pick you up, dust you off, never offend you, never expect anything from you, always meet your preferences, always make you feel special. And for those of us who work and volunteer at 'church', we try to accomplish those things. We fret when people seem less than happy over some 'church' issue, whether it be the volume or style of the music or the length of the service or the demeanor of the greeters at the door.
Because we've allowed 'church' to become a product.
When we carry a backwards definition about 'church', our expectations go backwards as well. We find ourselves thinking the They Shoulds. They Should turn down the music. They Should get more volunteers for the nursery. They Should do this or that or the other and They Should meet my preferences.
But 'church', real church, is us. We. A gathering of people who said we believe that there was this radical rabbi back a couple of handfuls of centuries ago who made a claim of divinity that we buy. And his state execution has meaning for us today. And his resurrection gives us life.
That's the church. It's not systems and flowcharts and trickle down models. It's us. It's not a super store shopping experience of 'I'll take one of these songs, that youth pastor, four of those Bible studies and a side of apologetics with a splash of social activities, please.' Church is the body and the Bride of Christ, a portrait made of our individual portraits, a dance that expresses grace and righteousness when the individuals move as one.
But somehow, somewhere along the line, we started thinking 'church' was for us and was about us and existed to serve us. To serve us?
We've got it all backwards.
You are the church. I am the church. Ask not what your church can do for you~~yeah, I just highjacked a Jack Kennedy line. But really.
Ask what you can do for the church.
That's forward thinking.
That's right thinking.
And that's what Jesus did.
You can look it up.