How often have we heard someone pontificate on what “the church” should do, or be… or what “the church” should not do or be? Perhaps we have even done it ourselves. Such words are similar to pronouncements, like “There ought to be a law”, of “Someone should do something about…” In each case, the speaker is telling us that he has a problem with something and somebody else should take the responsibility for fixing it.
There are times when this is actually the case, like when we believe that someone should have been looking out for the Americans in Benghazi. Most of us had no control over that situation. Other times, these are just the rantings of the armchair quarterbacks observing the political and economic games. However, in the case of “the church”, this is much less often the case.
This may become more clear if we look at what “the church” really is. Obviously, it is not the edifice. The denomination is not “the church”. Neither is the pastor or priest. All of these are important and serve a function, but they are not “the church”. So what is “the church”?
I Peter 2:4-5 tells us:
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (ESV)
We are “the church”! Those who look to Jesus as our Savior are “the church”. Each one of us has a role to play, and all are important, not just the visible ones. When we say “the church” should be more involved in the world around us, are we not saying we should be more involved in the world around us?
The corollary to this is that those who do not look to Jesus are NOT “the church”. What this means is that they have nothing to say about what “the church” does or should be. Their claims that “the church” should change with the times and accept homosexuality and the slaughter of millions of unborn infants in the name of convenience, has absolutely no goal, other than to make “the church” more like the rest of the world. These efforts do not come from our Creator.
This is pretty much the ultimate disrespect coming from those pushing their touted virtues of tolerance and diversity. For the secular progressives who say diversity is important, they are attempting to eliminate from the diverse spectrum, opinions they do not wish to deal with. They have no authority, moral or otherwise, to tell those who follow the Bible that they must have allegiance to another source of values whether it is academia, pop culture or government.
So is “the church” more responsible to the author of the Book, or the the 501c3 or c4 enforcers? Is the special tax status the controlling factor of a religious body, or is following Biblical principles of right and wrong? Could it be that now is the time for churches and other Christian based non-profits to forsake subservience to IRS observers? There may be consequences, but what does it profit a church if it gains the charitable exemption, but loses its soul in the process? Are we not told that the just shall live by faith… not by government edict?
To put this into perspective, these outside forces really can only inflict themselves on the organized structure. Let’s get back to what “the church” is. It is not the denomination or even the leadership. It is you and it is me. If “the church” should help the poor… we should help the poor. If “the church” should rise up against the killers of innocents, we should rise up against the killers of innocents. If “the church” should stand against immorality and injustice, should we not take up that stand?
It is not “the church” who will answer for its deeds and misdeeds, it is each one of us, individually, who will one day face our Creator to be rewarded or punished. So while we need to work together, we cannot pass the responsibility for our lives to the action or inaction of our particular manifestation of “the church”. It is there to show us the way to salvation, to teach us right from wrong, and to teach us how to live.
It is up to us to act, not chatter or bellyache.