I’d rather not go to church.
It’s easier to be Christ-like when I don’t have to deal with people.
It’s hard to be patient and pious when faced with a brother who can’t contain his strong opinions… especially when they are opinions I disagree with.
It’s also hard to engage too deeply with a sister who is a lot like me when it comes to self-righteousness. Not that I always recognize myself in her. But the resonance of that sin is particularly galling to me.
And yet, that is why we need each other.
Spiritual formation cannot occur in a vacuum. If I can’t develop the character of Christ when face-to-face with the repugnant sin of my brother, then I can’t develop the character of Christ at all.
The Broadway musical Hamilton gives glimpses of the halting start of our infant country. After the victory of the Revolutionary War, the Founding Fathers were faced with the daunting task of creating a government in which all people would have freedom and mutual respect. Freedom to grant mutual respect. Halting. Screeching starts and squealing stops. But. They. Never. Gave. Up.
Case in point… the disagreement between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton about defending the Constitution:
Burr: And if it fails?
Hamilton: Burr, that’s why we need it.
Burr: The Constitution’s a mess.
Hamilton: So it needs amendments.
Burr: It’s full of contradictions.
Hamilton: So is independence.
Independence!! Freedom in the Body of Christ!! Full of contradictions!!
Paul said, “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful.” 1 Corinthians 6:12
The Law of Love (God is Love) governs the global Church. And we must learn the language of Love in the local church.
We must connect with a sister or brother in Christ with whom we have virtually nothing in common. We must look to Jesus,
“Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!”
As we gaze on Jesus, unimaginable humility and love, He inspires us and empowers us to be humble with our fellow sinners.
“Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:3-4
We gaze on Him, beloved Jesus, and ask for His own humility to love others in the Body of Christ when it may be hard to like them sometimes.
There is a paradoxical freedom in humility. I let go of my need to control how things “should” be. Exhilarating release of power to love my brothers and sisters just as they are, where they are.
And, I get to walk with Christ more intimately. Step by step, I call on Him for the wisdom and love that I don’t have. I need Him moment by moment- in real life, not just in a song. And He teaches me His way.
There is no way to grow into the likeness of Jesus without interacting with the real life tumult of the Body of Christ.
“‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9
It is honestly easier not to go to church. But it would be a slippery slope of regression in my journey with Jesus. May I be brave enough to engage with real people in the Body of Christ. And, by the power of the Holy Spirit, may I build spiritual muscle to love like Jesus.