I am the church. With all the world-worn baggage I brought into this thing. With all the rough edges that Christ continues to patiently and lovingly refine. With this sin-scarred body that needs the constant shove of the Spirit to keep from wandering into the ditch.
When you throw me together with others who share the same condition (that is, being human), things get messy. We’re a people set apart for a perfect God, but we’re not perfect ourselves. We can hurt the wounded, ignore the struggling, strain out gnats, swallow camels, and cling to money. Honestly, we’re not very lovely sometimes.
But we’re the church, an imperfect people who point to a perfect God. And we need each other, no matter how tempting it might be to just walk away. As Dr. Karen Swallow Prior (professor at Liberty University) points out in a recent article, those who follow Christ are called to love the church, with all its failures, just as God loves us:
Yet, I want to say, gently or perhaps not-so-gently, That way you want the church to love those you love? Unconditionally, enthusiastically, and compasstionately [sic]? That's how you are called to love the church, too.
That forbearance, that tolerance, that grace, you extend so generously and rightly to the lost and the disobedient? That's what you are called to offer to the church.
To those who say that the church is too petty and political, too corporate-minded and culturally accommodating, I say, yes, it's true. Indeed, the wounds wrought by the church are fresh every morning.
The church is like that unfaithful woman God commanded the prophet Hosea to marry and have children with. The church is like that same errant woman God later commanded Hosea to seek and bring home, her and her children by other lovers. The church is like that unlovable woman God commanded Hosea to love. Yes, the church is like the prostitute Gomer: wayward and compromising, unfaithful to her promises, unlovable.
The bride of Christ? She's a whore.
As Dr. Prior suggests, Hosea’s life serves as a powerful reminder of what God expects of us. God sent His Son not to the perfect, but to the fallen, the misfits. Pastor Jason Morrison explains just how staggering the image is in this video:
Running from the church is easier. But we’re called to extend the same mercy to the church that God extended to us. We’re one body, and we need each other—even when it’s painful.