by David Goodman
In fact, it was never designed to be.
Perhaps we should post signs warning you to put on your hard hat … maybe even some body armor … when you walk in the front door. You’re entering a construction zone, where, instead of bricklayers and electricians, each worker is charged with shaping and being shaped by other workers. Every church member is unfinished, just like you. Don’t expect otherwise. Scripture is clear—none of us will be finished in our own lifetime.
A recipe for disaster? Of course. Yet every disaster is an opportunity to grow. Did you ever wonder why Paul’s letters to the churches deal with so many messy problems? That’s normal. A toddler will never learn to walk without some nasty tumbles. That same toddler learns basic hygiene as loving, patient people spend months cleaning him up and changing diapers (something God uses to refurbish character in those a little further along in development).
And that’s not all.
Pastors inevitably let you down. Even elders may fall into sin. Church members can be selfish; they often gossip and if you trust the wrong person, you can be hurt … badly. Everyone has a story. We see Jesus’ own disciples trying to elbow each other out of the spotlight and one of them turns out to be a Judas. Why should your church be different? Why not expect this as the necessary clutter and chaos of a construction zone?
That is exactly the picture Paul gives us of the church: “God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.” (Eph. 2:20-22, The Message)
If church is the place God is continually taking off our rough edges to fit us into his overall blueprint, then I expect the process will be noisy and often painful, but always good. C.S. Lewis has a wonderful exchange in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in which one of his characters dispels the illusion that Jesus would be safe. “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
Likewise, should we expect the church to be safe? No. It is God’s construction zone; Jesus’ body. And that is a good thing.
David G. Goodman