Over the years I have met lots of folks who have been disillusioned, hurt, betrayed, and misled by the church. They came into the fold expecting blessing, but left with nothing but curse. Coming with a smile; leaving with their teeth knocked out.
To those people, I would first like to say this: I understand. I know first hand what friendly fire feels like. I have scars on my soul from the bite marks of Christ’s sheep. I also have been confused and disheartened by the direction of certain churches/Christians over the years; seeming to get further and further off course; looking less and less like they’re supposed to. None of it is fun. All of it is extremely painful. So painful that it can make leaving the church look like a great option.
But it’s not.
Even with all the pain churches are able to cause, it is never a good option, a righteous option, to forever leave the church in which Jesus dwells (1 Corinthians 3:16). Not because your pain isn’t real. Not because you need to get over it. No, leaving the church is never a good option because Jesus never leaves His church. He is the husband par excellence who stands by the side of His bride and works unceasingly for her good. Therefore, following Jesus will always bring you back to His bride because that’s where He is. Loving Jesus ought to bring you to love the Church, not because she is beautiful now, but because Jesus is always working to make her beautiful now because of His love for her.
A simple sampling of the Scriptures will do well to color in Jesus’ tender, committed, and strong love for His Church…
He bought her with His blood (Acts 20:28).
He gave Himself to cleanse her and make her radiant as the sun and purer than the snow (Ephesians 5:25-27).
He says a mother will sooner forget her baby than He forget His people (Isaiah 49:15).
He exults and rejoices over the church with shouts of joy (Zeph. 3:17).
He sees the Church as the glory His inheritance (Ephesians 1:18)
He says His joy over the Church is greater than the joy of a groom’s joy over his bride on his wedding day (Isaiah 62:5).
He gifted her with prophets, pastors, teachers, and evangelists so she could grow up in maturity and not be tossed around in the wind and waves of the world (Ephesians 4:11-12).
He is always with her till the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).
He gave gifts to all the members of the Church in order to work for her common good (1 Corinthians 12:4-7).
He calls her His Chosen, Holy, and Beloved (Colossians 3:12); His Chosen Race, Royal Priesthood, Holy Nation, and His Own Possession (1 Peter 2:9); His Bride (Revelations 21:9); the Apple of His Eye (Zech. 2:8).
I could go on and on because the love of Christ for His church goes on and on and that’s the point. Don’t leave the Church Jesus loves because He won’t. Yes, in some cases it is good and even necessary to leave a certain local church for reasons like unbudging heresy, harassment, or harmful behavior. However, it is never ok to leave the church for good because Jesus never will (Matthew 28:20). Following Him will make you minister to her.
So, instead of calling it quits and leaving for good when faced with the sins and shortcomings of the church, may we heed the words of Archibald Alexander and…
Resolve, that, if the church be corrupted with error, agitated by controversy, or torn by schism, the sin shall not lie at your door. If her walls be broken down, by folly or wickedness, see that you be found in the breach, fighting and praying for her restoration. And if ever a time should come in which you can do nothing more, at least be found weeping between the porch and the altar, saying, Spare thy people, O Lord, bless thy heritage, save them, and lift them up for ever!
May we ever be faithful to the body of Christ because it is the body of Christ. He will never leave or forsake her, may we never do so as well.