The healthy Counter-balance written into church membership
I am finishing off the final editing on my book on John’s Gospel entitled: Lives Jesus Changed.
As I arrived at chapter 20 I was struck by Jesus’ pastoral concern for his mother even as he was enduring the agony of a sacrificial death. He placed her in the care of the Apostle John and instituting the future of the caring Christian community we know as the Church.
A consistent theme in John is that the disciples can expect hostility from the world, but safety in Christ:
If you belonged to the world , it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world , but I have chosen you out of the world . That is why the world hates you. (John 15:19)
My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. (John 17:15)
The thought that struck me powerfully this week was this: the thing that puts us at odds with the world (being in Christ and our resultant membership of the Church) is also the very thing that fortifies and strengthens us to live for him. Let me put it like this.
The Church is call to be both:
Counter-cultural – we side with Christ. If the world hated Christ then we can expect it to hate us too. More positively, Christians are not supposed to just “go with the flow” but rather, under God, they are to seek the reform of society by His Spirit, for his glory. You are not of the world, but Jesus has sent us into the world for the world’s better good (e.g. John 17:16-18).
Cross-cultural – the great glory of the Church is that by being united to Christ we are also now in unity with the great diversity of believers across lands, nations, kingdoms and time zones. The community to which we now belong is made up of a vast array of diverse people (see John 12:32 – all peoples (all nations) make up this church).
The thing that has struck me afresh is that these two marvellous truths about the Church (as being counter-cultural and cross-cultural) are a marvellous counter balance to each other. Without the world-wide weight of our membership of a universal church we would be picked off by the enemy, discouraged by loneliness and defeated by our weakness. Similarly, if the Church is not distinctive and separate from the world there is no way in which it will become a movement of people which will begin to change this world for good.
Jesus’ vision for his body, the church, is that the people who have been saved by him out of the world but for the good of the world, should vastly increase the scope and breadth of his ministry and do so much more than he could have done if he had remained a solitary man on this earth.
What a vision for the Church! Will you repent with me of feeling anything less than enamoured by it or anything less than grateful for being a part of God’s weighty purposes on earth?!