My dad had a gift. He could remember sermons from his young adult years, name the pastor, know the title and passage used. I wish I had a mind like his — I’ll blame learning multiple languages to inhibiting my ability to remember anything in one. It’s a poor excuse, but handy, when I need it.
Many of us remember famous quotes or at least parts of them:
“Four score and seven years ago…” Lincoln
“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country…” Kennedy
“My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die!” The Princess Bride
I didn’t say everything we remember is useful, but they do stick with us for some reason. Many times a quote will come that relates to a specific issue we’re dealing with, giving us not only a memorable saying, but an experience to go with it.
When my husband passed away, the first thing my father said to me was a Bible verse that meant so much to him when my mother passed away twenty years earlier. “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Mark 12:27). I will always think of that verse in connection with that time in my life.
This last week was a hard one for me. I was struggling with the reality of Body Life, i.e. life as part of a church, and was on the phone with my youngest son. Even when children are adults, we still look on them as children; thus the reason I am always amazed at how God speaks through them.
So, I’m talking to Nathan, and we’re discussing the reality of not just one church but church in general and how they are made up of fallen people and can get messy, and then God uses him to speak this amazing statement:
If we had perfect churches, we wouldn’t have most of the New Testament.
I paused and took in the truth of what that meant. Yes, if churches had been doing everything according to God’s will for them, Paul would not have to write his letters. Even Peter and John wrote letters to help instruct and keep believers from falling into sinful ways. There were attacks coming from outside the church, from the religious majority of that day, and even from inside. Their letters are full of instruction, correction, encouragement and even a bit of frustration.
Church life is not easy, but I’m glad we have a body of letters to refer to when we face trials and attacks. Thank you, Paul, thank you, John, Peter and James. Not only has God used them to help us with specific issues and to learn how to do church better, but he’s also used them as a reminder that there is no such thing as a perfect church. I should not be so hard on mine.
So, there’s another quote that comes in handy here, though I’m going to paraphrase: “Do unto your church as you would have your church do unto you.” Since that comes from the one who showed us grace and mercy, perhaps he’s reminding me to do the same. Yes, sin must be addressed and confessed, but the final goal is restoration to the Body.
Are you struggling in your less-than-perfect church? Ask the Lord what he would have you do for them. Start with prayer and then take a read through some really old letters…you’ll feel better, if you do.
Grace and Peace