It’s not perfect, but it helps a hurting world
Published 12:42 am Saturday, June 3, 2017
When you were a child, did anyone ever show you how to make a church with your hands? First, place your fists together knuckles to knuckles. Then, weave the fingers on your right hand like a braid into the fingers on your left hand.
Next, fold your hands until your palms touch. Then, extend your index fingers and press them together, pointing heavenward.
Put your thumbs side by side, and begin, “Here’s the church and here’s the steeple. Open the doors.” Now, unfold your hands, wiggle your fingers, and say, “Here’s all the people.”
Of course, if you simply clasp your hands together, you can still form a steeple, but your church will have no people. This childhood memory symbolizes the church building and its congregation.
But the word, church, also brings to mind denominations, as in Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal, Assembly of God, or Church of Christ. The list could go on and on. However, for this column I’m referring to the Church, meaning all Christians.
Philip Yancey has written a book with the unusual title, “Church: Why Bother?” in which he makes some interesting observations both personally and from scripture. He notes that the church is defined as the body of Christ in Ephesians 4:12.
Yancey also describes the Church as God’s emergency center. It’s “a place where we can bring our pain, for it was founded by One whose body was broken for us, in order to give us life.”
We read in 1 Corinthians 12:21-26 that the Church is like a human body with many members. Someone is an eye, another’s an ear, hand, and so forth. “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it (verse 26).
The Church is sometimes called the family of God. That’s why Christians often greet each other as brother or sister. “Biblically the church is an organism, not an organization – a movement, not a monument,” states Charles Colson, adding that it’s “values are often in sharp conflict with the values of the surrounding society.”
In other words, the Church’s task is to personify God’s presence in the world. The Church is not a place we go to, although we are instructed to gather there for worship (Hebrews 10:25). We are His hands, feet and voice to those around us.
Yancey answers those who criticize the church for “its hypocrisy, its failures, and its inability to measure up to the New Testament’s high standards” with a pastor’s illustration of a high school orchestra attempting to perform Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
Even the Chicago Symphony could not perform it with perfection. As for people listening to the high school orchestra, it may be the only way they will ever hear Beethoven. The Church cannot be perfect because there simply are no perfect people.
But the Church remains the only way the world will know God’s care for the hurting and His love for the lost.
– Jan White is an award-winning columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.