You know the one. Everyone smiles when they enter. They greet one another with sincere hugs and handshakes. They praise with pure hearts. They show genuine concern for others. Decisions are prayerfully made, regardless of convenience. Daily Bible study energizes and directs each member. Each person views their possessions, their job, their money as a means to minister and encourage others. All are known for their kindness and generosity. Just your average, everyday picture perfect church.
The problem with this church is that it is a fantasy. We live in a broken world, with broken people, who attend broken churches.
The beauty of any church is that a body, made up of hurting people, is able to love, forgive, and move forward in spite of the selfish motives and sinful natures that too often control the membership. There is no such thing as a perfect church because there is no such thing as perfect people.
We are named a body because we all have different talents, different functions, different needs (just like arms, legs, etc…) but we work together, as one, to complete the tasks that Christ gave the church. We are called living stones because we are being built up into something that we could never accomplish individually. We are given the title “Royal Priesthood” because we are to lead in sacrifice to and worship of the only, true God. We are the church.
We may hurt one another. We might forget, for a time, that we are overcomers and wallow in sin. We won’t always be a light shining on a hill. We are broken. But, that is exactly why Jesus came and established His church.
He came to heal the sick and wounded. He extends help to the needy. He releases prisoners. As our Creator, He knows we are nothing but weak vessels of clay. That is why He gave us one another. When one is weak, another supports and strengthens through prayer. The brother or sister who falls into sin easily gains accountability and instruction through mature believers as they study the Word of God together. Those who have suffered help to bring healing through their stories. We are all gifted by the Holy Spirit for the “common good” of the body according to 1 Corinthians 12. Every single person has a place in the body and we are incomplete without them.
So how is the church measuring up? Is it picture perfect? No, but it is beautiful. Each time forgiveness is sought and forgiveness is granted, beauty unfolds. The weak are strengthened and encouraged. Sins are confessed and healing begins. Backbiting stops and praise echoes in the halls. The gospel is preached and sinful hearts are cleansed. Needs are met and relationships mended. This is beauty rising from ashes and chaos. Only God could do this. How beautiful the body that is clothed in humility and recognizes the blessing of God’s work in their lives, individually and corporately.
I am thankful for the imperfections in my church. Our own struggles reveal our need for God and lets us see God working. Acknowledging our sinfulness means there is no need to feign perfection. All pretense is gone. I’m a sinner in need of God’s grace, mercy, and power. God is perfecting me through His righteousness just like He is working in the man across the aisle.
And one day, we will all bow in the presence of our Savior. Each of us recognizing that His work, and His work alone, has healed us. We will raise voices to worship and no longer be brought down by sins. On that day, perfection in the body will finally be achieved. Oh, Glorious day! But until, that day, I will choose to rejoice in our differences, in our struggles, and in our victories.