Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Church at Its Worst and Best

Love One Another: Becoming the Church Jesus Longs for"I just can't believe it, Dad.  Those people loved me for no other reason than that I needed to be loved."

"It's the church," I responded. I told her that when the church is functioning at its best, there is simply no community on earth that can rival it.  But when the church is functioning at its worst, there is no community on earth that can do as much damage.  History itself proves the point.  The church has served untold millions, as is evidenced by the number of churches, hospitals, orphanages, schools and relief agencies that Christians have founded and operated.  But the church has brutalized untold millions, too, as the medieval inquisition and the religious wars of the seventeenth century demonstrate. (p. 14)
 The problem is that we are often more like the world than like Christ.
The church is called to function as a body, as if it were a kind of incarnation of Christ in the world.  "For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ" (1 Corinthians 12:13)....  Christ was the incarnation of God in the wold; the church is the incarnation of Christ. (p. 16)
Where do we begin to correct the problem?
The quality of relationships among Christians makes the church an effective witness for the gospel, for it creates the kind of community into which others are naturally drawn. (p. 17)
The New Testament issues a series of commands to show us how to develop these healthy relationships.  Called "mutuality commands" because they use the phrase "one another," these commands translate love into action, mitigate the tensions that inevitably surface among Christians, and mollify the differences among believers so that, instead of suspicion, conflict and division the church models trust, harmony and unity.  They enable the church to become a community of love. (p. 20)

Gerald Sittser, Love One Another: Becoming the Church Jesus Longs For (2nd ed., IVP, 2008).