Why Joe M Stayed in the Church

Friends,

While lurking, and taking a brief hiatus from writing at CRN.info, I read this in the comments thread of another post: “This place is supposed to be the “Christian” blog…er…right?” Well, I can say: “Yes! It is.” We don’t always agree (sometimes we don’t really even like each other very much); we certainly do not all share the same ideas about theology or politics!, but at the end of the day, we still have enough nerve to love each other, correct each other, demonstrate grace to each other, and help one another carry the burdens of this life. This is why I cannot, even though I said I would, stay away for a week. Not only is writing my passion, but I love those I write with here and those who read. This place, as a microcosm of the church, is where I meet grace daily–no matter how badly a post is written or how many people take umbrage with it. Grace. Ahh…how did Annie Dillard write it? “One catches grace as a man fills a cup under a waterfall.”

___________________________

My friend and brother Joe Martino wrote a great post about this very subject: Why I Stay in Church: What if it’s about Becoming Holy? What I appreciate about Joe’s post is that he is not afraid to be honest about the church: cuts, nicks, scars, bruises, blood, stink, tears, and sweat. It’s all there. I think it is only people who are not Christians who really expect the church to be perfect, an expectation that the Head of the church, Jesus of Nazareth, doesn’t even have (or else there would be no need for grace). Those of us who are Christians–whatever that means–have no such illusions. We, the baptized, are those who understand only too well that the church is a place for the misfits and losers of the world; those uninitiated in the ways of world domination; those unfazed by exploits of power, rebellion, and ‘wisdom’; those who demonstrate by their faith that they belong to a different time, and place, and person. The church is a place for people who are hungry for grace and forgiveness and mercy because they are tired of the manner in which the world conducts its business.

In short, the church is a terrible place at times; ugly; malformed; malnourished; distorted; unlovely; unkempt; and yet, strangely enough, among the church (es) is the place John tells us he saw Jesus: “And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest” (Rev 1:12b-13, TNIV).

Oh, he’s in the church? Oh, He’s in the Church! Here’s how Joe ended his thoughts:

I mean He didn’t have to create church this way. He could have done it another way.  How many people in church annoy you? How many people in church are just irrelevant to your life? How many people are lying to you? How many are cheating on their spouse? How many could care less if you can’t pay your bills this month?

So why did God design it this way and why should we stay. What are some common problems in the church and how might we wrestle through them?…What would happen if we looked at church more as a means to make us holy than we looked at it as a means to make us happy?

I couldn’t agree more. That holiness is shaped in us not because of the righteous things we do or the right things we believe or the holy places we go. No. It is shaped in us, we are formed for holiness, by the ever present help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us despite all those nicks, cuts, scratches, wounds, sins, etc. Strange that we are loved because of, despite our weakness and not despised for it. Strange that Jesus should walk among us. Strange the Holy Spirit should live in us. Strange that the Father would choose us. Strange that we are such a peculiar people and yet so fondly adored by the Creator of the Universe.

_________________________

I learn a little bit more each day about the magnificence of God. What sort of God chooses to align himself with the weak, the underdogs, the unwise–in fact goes out of his way to accept us? What sort of a God is it who loves people like us, people lacking in perspicacity and overflowing with indignation? I hear he is fond of us, his people. I’m glad. He has made me glad. There’s something to be said about ’sticking it out’ when we find ourselves in a place that makes us uncomfortable or unhappy or discourages us or abuses us or unhinges us. After all, God sticks around. In fact, Jesus promised never to leave, nor forsake us. Never. That’s a mighty long time. I guess I can tolerate a few years here on earth. What of you?

Semper Deo Gloria!

PS: Follow the original post and comments here.

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