The unconditional love of our Father is a decent selling point for Christianity wouldn’t you agree? Many of my friends have either or a father or mother who were unavailable, completely absent, and/or abusive. But God the Father, He’s the one parent who won’t ever walk out on us. God, the Mother, is gentle, spreads her feathers over us as a comfort, a protector (Psalm 91:4). God, the Father, is our just and awesome creator; our solid rock on which we can trust (Psalm 89:26). God is always faithful, always true.
There is nothing you can do to make God love you less. There is nothing you can do to make God love you more. God is love. He loves because that is what He is in relation to us. God is ever faithful to His children.
The Israelites have always ticked me off. Here they are begging for God to free them from slavery, and He did in a big way; in an everyone-look-at-the-Almighty-God-of-the Universe sort of way. The people of Israel witnessed violent and horrific plagues in the process of their rescue from Egypt. They walked behind a giant cloud pillar in the day and a giant fire pillar at night. They walked in the middle of a sea on dry ground and watched as the Egyptian army was smashed and drowned under the weight of the water as it crashed down upon them. And what do they do? The first chance they get; they build a gold cow to dance around. No wonder Moses threw the ten commandments. I probably would have as well. (We’ll talk about self-control later.) Even so, God was faithful to the Israelites. He gave them food they whined about and water when they fussed. He was with them all the way.
I’ve noticed a pattern in our humanness. Whenever we get comfortable, we wander. Whenever times are good and life gets important, spirituality is less important. We glance over spirituality because it’s there and has always been there. God will be there tomorrow. The church building doors will be open next week. We have other things to do and places to be and that’s OK because, you know, grace.
Then once things get uncomfortable, we cry out to God. After September 11, 2001 church buildings were full. We were scared. We needed God. We came faithfully begging for God to heal the broken and protect us from evil. But time went by and the gold calf of whatever we want to do on Sundays became more important than faithfulness to the bride of Christ.
In China right now there are churches meeting in secret out of fear of their government. They are the faithful. Under persecution and hateful regimes, Chinese Christians don’t miss a Sunday worship with their church family. And the church is growing in China under this harsh persecution. Have you wondered about all these prayers to turn America back to God? Perhaps the turning will come through true persecution. And I’m not talking about the kind of persecution where you have to bake a cake for someone of which you don’t agree. I’m talking about the lobbing off of heads and life-long imprisonment persecution. Maybe that is indeed what will turn us back. Keeping praying maybe we’ll get there.
My sweet dad was a minister. I grew up folding bulletins, cleaning baptistries, and filling communion trays. I also grew up watching people, Christian brothers and sisters, judge my parent’s new Ford Taurus, make jokes about my dad’s paycheck, and refusing to allow my dad to go on mission trips. Then I married a minister and had a front row seat to divorce after pathetic divorce, sexual abuse scandals, parents who discouraged their teens from mission work or pursuing ministry professions, and bitter ministers who thought themselves more important than the gospel or the elders they worked under. I’ve seen a lot of junk from Christians within the walls of church buildings. For a very long time, this messed me up. Had I not been married to the ministry, I would have walked and never entered a church building again. Life with Christians drug me down to a depression hole that I only crawled out of with the help of my tender, patient husband, my listening friends who spoke truth to me, and Xanax…and one more thing-forgiveness. I had to learn to forgive.
There is absolutely no reason to believe that attending church will be a great experience for you or your family. You won’t find perfection there. You’ll find messed up people in churches from the pulpits to the back row. The people there may hurt you. They will probably disappoint you. You’ll see them mess up, and you’ll have to choose, like I did, whether or not to walk out on them and whether or not to judge them. You’ll be required to forgive. That’s part of the gig.
Christ never promised that His bride would be perfect for you and I. He never said a word about how the church was supposed to make us feel warm, fuzzy, entertained, and comfortable. Not one word. He never made mention of exciting bible classes and emotionally driven praise music. He never even had a requirement for entertaining preachers. The church is a support group and a place to learn about God and His people. The church exists for you to enter in boldly exclaim “I’m messed up too! Praise God! I’m saved!” The second you put that church on a pedestal will be your first trip down church family abandonment lane.
When it comes to being faithful to the bride of Christ, the church, we have lots of excuses don’t we? We don’t have time. The people are jerks. And grace means I don’t have to go. Don’t miss the fact that Christ created a community around himself, a community of regular Joes – some who were uneducated and brash and some who were highly educated and condescending and some who were tender and sweet. Christ pulled together 12 men (and I promise you, women) to do His work. They laughed together. They cried together. They dreamed together. They argued. This is an example to us as to what church is. It is life together, all of us- together. Not separated by our education, our color, our preferences, but spending life together celebrating and remembering the Savior. Simple right?
God is faithful to us every day. That breath you just took is God being faithful. That talent you have is God being faithful. And that church family that God provided is God being faithful. You need the church and the church needs you and not as a fair weather friend. The church needs you there consistently…faithfully. We need each other’s honesty and transparency and encouragements. We need to make it messy and uncomfortable and shut down the country club persona of Sunday mornings. We need tattoos, piercings, sinners, doubters, and all the other saints there every Sunday. We need each other. As God is so faithful to us, please don’t neglect His bride as unkempt though she may be.
We choose who we are faithful to every Sunday.
1. Is it easy for you to be unfaithful to the bride of Christ? Why? Are you judging the people of the church? Has someone hurt you there? Do you need to forgive and accept your own faults as well?
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” -Hebrews 10:24-25
2. Is your life too busy for the bride of Christ? You are faithful to something? What is it that stands between you and the encouragement of the church?