The glory and mess of the church
Every wedding ceremony I’m filled with mixed emotions. I’m usually excited for the couple, but I’m also a little concerned for them. Really, they have no idea what they’re in for. Marriage is one of those things that looks very nice when it is still in its packaging, but when you enter into it, you find out that it is much more than you had bargained for.
It turns out that this is a blessing, not a curse. Dave Harvey writes:
If you are married, or soon to be married, you are discovering that your marriage is not a romance novel. Marriage is the union of two people who arrive toting the luggage of life. And that luggage always contains sin. Often it gets opened right there on the honeymoon, sometimes it waits for the week after. But the suitcases are always there, sometimes tripping their owners, sometimes popping open unexpectedly and disgorging forgotten contexts. We must not ignore our sin, because it is the very context where the gospel shines brightest.
All of this applies to the church as well. It looks shiny in its packaging, but when you enter in you find a mess: a collection of sinners with baggages of sin. It’s a mess. But “it is the very context where the gospel shines brightest.”
Which is why I think one of the greatest gifts we can receive is to enter the mess of ordinary church life.
Glorious? Yes, actually – read Ephesians. It blows my mind that the church is “his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:23), making known the “manifold wisdom of God…to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10). Talk about a different view of the church than what most of us have.
But messy? Absolutely. And I contribute to that mess with my baggage. I’m increasingly learning that the mess is a gift. I need the mess. I need a rough and tumble life with real people in all of their mess. It leads to hurt, and I understand why people get frustrated with it all. But it’s in this very context that the gospel shines brightest.