How to Love a Church You Don't Even Like

Christians can argue like family but do we love like it, too?

I’m very grateful for my family. Growing up without my dad in the home, the rest of us became deeply close. We were all we had. Just the four of us. We clung to one another for strength. We cried in one another’s arms and on each other’s pillows. We didn’t have much, but we learned to enjoy the simple gift of each other’s presence. No, not every day was a mid-afternoon sitcom, but we loved each other. We were committed to one another. We fought for one another. And over the years, we have grown together.

When it comes to family, grace and mercy are constants and forgiveness is a must. You learn to interact through different seasons and ever-changing circumstances. At 31, I can honestly say that each member of my family is a dear friend of mine. But that didn’t come easily.

Instead, it came through hard battles and tough conversations. It came through the conduit of sincere vulnerability and great patience. It came through pressing through life trauma. Living with our families can be tiresome and sometimes feel like an endless walk with an energized dog; pulled and yanked in all sorts of directions without a moment to even breathe. But even in the midst of storms, we defend our families and fight for them. We’re eager to stand in the gap for a hurting family member or shower them with grace in a time of confusion. This is what we do for the people we love.

We do all this because this is what you do for family.

Jesus came to inaugurate a new bloodline of relatives, a family connected by the means of His sacrificial death and life-restoring resurrection on our behalf.


If this the way we act with our earthly family, why is it we refuse to extend this level of patience and perseverance to our eternal family, the Church, when the time comes? The Church has flaws. We know them intimately, it seems. In fact, it might seem that we seek those faults and failures out with great purpose. We seem to be all too familiar with what is wrong about the body of Christ, as if her mistakes outnumber and outweigh her beauties. We lack forgiveness. We lack a listening ear. We lack support.

Our spiritual family is no different than our earthly family, yet why do we give up, hang our head in disappointment and walk the other way at the first sighting of flaws and inadequacies? We send out a tweet, post a picture or compose a rant belittling and berating aspects of Christ’s Body but defend our earthly siblings without question. We may use the titles of brother and sister within the church on Sunday, but our behavior toward them and commitment to them during the week surely doesn’t follow in line.

Jesus’ example is the standard.

How Jesus acted and the way he carried himself used to be a morality litmus test when we found ourselves in a frustrating situation.

What would Jesus do?

The question was canonized on bumper stickers and bracelets to the point of becoming cliche. But when it comes to the nature of the Church body and its internal, familial relations, we need to ask the question now more than ever. How are we treating one another? How do we talk about one another? Are we giving grace? Are we showing mercy? Are we seeking reconciliation? Do we care about familial restoration? Is there any one of our family members in need?

In the Gospel of Matthew, we get a glimpse into Jesus’ commitment to family. When directed toward His mother and brothers, Jesus acknowledged His disciples in front of Him as His new family. Jesus looks to the disciples and identifies them, as well as anyone who does the will of the Father, as His true relatives. On other occasions Jesus insisted that following Him meant laying down your life and forsaking all else, even your parents and your siblings. So does Jesus not care about His family? He surely does. Don’t think that Jesus came to destroy families. Not at all. Instead, Jesus came to inaugurate a new bloodline of relatives, a family connected by the means of His sacrificial death and life-restoring resurrection on our behalf. If you’re a follower of Christ, that’s you. That’s me. This is us, we are the Church and we are family.

How would Jesus treat His family?

When we look at the Church do we see a family or do we see an enemy? When we look across the room during the sermon or out in the lobby or through the computer screen on Facebook, do we see brothers and sisters or do we see strangers? Where is our allegiance? Are we loyal to our own body and family’s name more than we are Christ’s body and Christ’s name?

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It’s no secret that the Church argues like true family members sitting across the dinner table from one another. But why do we argue better than we encourage? Sometimes it feels we draw lines of division better than we draw circles of inclusion. If the Church is truly family, we must fight for our own and come to the aid of our eternal siblings more and more. We must love others the way that Jesus loves us. And when we see the church as family, it immediately transforms our level of compassion and the extent of our forgiveness. When we truly view each other as brothers and sisters we will be so anxious to grant mercy and offer support of one another even through times of hard discipline and uncomfortable tension.

This radical view allows the Spirit to work in us to love Jesus’ Bride the way He did and the way He still does. This means we go to enormous lengths and at unbelievable costs to care for her and love her. When the Church becomes our family, we lay down our pride and raise up the cross of Christ in order to grant patience and forgiveness to those we’re angry with, disagree with or even dislike, knowing that’s exactly what Christ did for each one of us. We love the Church like family when we see the extent to which God came to save our own souls. The cross of Jesus is the greatest dose of medicine for those lacking empathy, compassion, gentleness and grace. Looking to the cross is the greatest antidote to heal broken family ties and restore eternal brothers and sisters back together.

We’ve learned to forgive our family for their faults and their failures and to love them through all of their messiness. It’s time we do this within the family of God. If we as the church are to stand together as one under the shadow of Calvary, we need to look out over Christ’s Bride and echo His heart: These are my brothers and my sisters. We need to shout with one voice, “This is our family.” The Church is our family. Let’s act like one.

Top Comments

Royce E. Van Blaricome

48

Royce E. Van Blaricome commented…

Good article. I agree that too often we tend to see the flaws in the Church and focus on them more than the beauty.

However, I have to ask the question, how often do we see families who actually live according to the instructions and commands that Christ has given to His Bride? For example, in the author's description of his family, did you notice anything missing? While commitment, patience, and perseverance is named - and all are great things - where is the confrontation on sins, holding one another accountable, and discipline when refusal to confess and repent is not forthcoming? There is as much "love" in those things as the aforementioned.

It leaves me wondering just how intact that family might be if in fact it followed the Biblical model of love and commitment. Showing "patience" and "perseverance" may well be nothing more than "putting up with" and "overlooking" sin and that is NOT "Love". THAT is NOT what the Cross, as the author seems to imply, is about.

The author seems to imply with "but defend our earthly siblings without question" that we should do the same thing with Church. I disagree. THAT is NOT "love" or "grace". THAT is Selfishness and Sin. THAT is Unloving!

However, that said, the author is spot on when he states that we don't have a clue what it means to be Brothers & Sisters in the Family of God. And that we do not take this responsibility and relationship seriously enough.

It is a mistake though to look at the human family as the pattern for the Church. Rather, it should be the opposite!! The Standard by which we should use to live according to what a family should look like is God's Word. NOT the earthly family!! Let us NOT conform to it but rather be conformed to the image given to us as a Body of Christ and Bride of Christ and then let the earthly family be conformed by our reflection.

And that is perhaps the biggest mistake made by this article. Let us, The Body & Bride of Christ, NEVER be conformed to the things of this world but rather be conformed into in His image. For in Him are ALL things found. Acts 17:28.

Then, once we understand God's standard on how to behave as a "family", let us move forward with all gusto and commitment to live as the Family of God just as He intends us to.

Royce E. Van Blaricome

48

Royce E. Van Blaricome replied to Peter Kushkowski's comment

Peter, I'd encourage you to look at your first sentence and read it thru the eyes of Christ but replace your name with "a church". Do you worship God as you should? I know I don't. Perhaps that will help you "love' that church as Christ loves you.

That said, I understand what you're saying. I understand the difficulty in worshipping when "rock-concert-decibel-level" bangs from side to side in your mind. And I can most certainly relate to the background distraction during prayer time. I even brought that up to a pastor at one church because they would play music during the time of Communion when I was trying to focus on having a conversation with God about my sins.

However, that was something I had to turn over to God because it is not an Essential. It was an area I had to submit to as commanded to do by God. Trust me when I say that the voice of God, though sometimes a "still small voice", has NO problem being heard when He wants it to be.

The bottom line is this: there is NO perfect church in this world. But there IS a church for everyone. God has commanded it to be so and therefore there is NO excuse for not being a part of a local body. If there are things that disturb you or you see something that you think could be improved on, then speak up and let it be known. You're a member of that body and you have a duty to do so. That is especially so where there is sin that needs to be dealt with. But the music being too loud or being played during times of prayer is not sin. It's preference. And perhaps a preference that would be beneficial to most there. Or perhaps not. The important thing is to bring it to the attention of the leadership. Then pray. Then leave the consequences to God.

8 Comments

Peter Kushkowski

12

Peter Kushkowski commented…

It's increasingly difficult to love a church that, despite numerous suggestions made to the leadership, has lost all semblance of reverence in worship. With high-energy, over-amped, loud, rock-concert-decibel-level, Praise & Worship (P&W) segments and distracting background instruments during prayer times with no place for silence, the "still small voice" of the Lord doesn't stand a chance. Prolonged mosh-like standing during P&W is an imposition on infirm elderly, the very demographic that founded the church, and who continue to support with finances, prayer, and with the extraordinary physical exertions required to enable its continued attendance. Dimmed lighting prevents following sermons along in Bibles. Initial "blended-service" formats soon gave way, and pulled out all the stops, an allusion that applies equally to over-zealous organists in traditional settings. There's got to be a better way...

Royce E. Van Blaricome

48

Royce E. Van Blaricome replied to Peter Kushkowski's comment

Peter, I'd encourage you to look at your first sentence and read it thru the eyes of Christ but replace your name with "a church". Do you worship God as you should? I know I don't. Perhaps that will help you "love' that church as Christ loves you.

That said, I understand what you're saying. I understand the difficulty in worshipping when "rock-concert-decibel-level" bangs from side to side in your mind. And I can most certainly relate to the background distraction during prayer time. I even brought that up to a pastor at one church because they would play music during the time of Communion when I was trying to focus on having a conversation with God about my sins.

However, that was something I had to turn over to God because it is not an Essential. It was an area I had to submit to as commanded to do by God. Trust me when I say that the voice of God, though sometimes a "still small voice", has NO problem being heard when He wants it to be.

The bottom line is this: there is NO perfect church in this world. But there IS a church for everyone. God has commanded it to be so and therefore there is NO excuse for not being a part of a local body. If there are things that disturb you or you see something that you think could be improved on, then speak up and let it be known. You're a member of that body and you have a duty to do so. That is especially so where there is sin that needs to be dealt with. But the music being too loud or being played during times of prayer is not sin. It's preference. And perhaps a preference that would be beneficial to most there. Or perhaps not. The important thing is to bring it to the attention of the leadership. Then pray. Then leave the consequences to God.

Peter Kushkowski

12

Peter Kushkowski replied to Royce E. Van Blaricome's comment

Thank you, Royce, for reaching out to me in brotherly love. It is the total lack of reference as represented by rock-concert "preferences" that is most disturbing. We share the same aversion for instrumental distractions intruding on our attempts at quiet contemplation during communion.

Royce E. Van Blaricome

48

Royce E. Van Blaricome commented…

Good article. I agree that too often we tend to see the flaws in the Church and focus on them more than the beauty.

However, I have to ask the question, how often do we see families who actually live according to the instructions and commands that Christ has given to His Bride? For example, in the author's description of his family, did you notice anything missing? While commitment, patience, and perseverance is named - and all are great things - where is the confrontation on sins, holding one another accountable, and discipline when refusal to confess and repent is not forthcoming? There is as much "love" in those things as the aforementioned.

It leaves me wondering just how intact that family might be if in fact it followed the Biblical model of love and commitment. Showing "patience" and "perseverance" may well be nothing more than "putting up with" and "overlooking" sin and that is NOT "Love". THAT is NOT what the Cross, as the author seems to imply, is about.

The author seems to imply with "but defend our earthly siblings without question" that we should do the same thing with Church. I disagree. THAT is NOT "love" or "grace". THAT is Selfishness and Sin. THAT is Unloving!

However, that said, the author is spot on when he states that we don't have a clue what it means to be Brothers & Sisters in the Family of God. And that we do not take this responsibility and relationship seriously enough.

It is a mistake though to look at the human family as the pattern for the Church. Rather, it should be the opposite!! The Standard by which we should use to live according to what a family should look like is God's Word. NOT the earthly family!! Let us NOT conform to it but rather be conformed to the image given to us as a Body of Christ and Bride of Christ and then let the earthly family be conformed by our reflection.

And that is perhaps the biggest mistake made by this article. Let us, The Body & Bride of Christ, NEVER be conformed to the things of this world but rather be conformed into in His image. For in Him are ALL things found. Acts 17:28.

Then, once we understand God's standard on how to behave as a "family", let us move forward with all gusto and commitment to live as the Family of God just as He intends us to.

Carolyn Robe

119

Carolyn Robe commented…

The infirm and the elderly do not need to feel they have to stand any longer than they can do so comfortably. Seriously, is anyone going to complain if an elderly person sits down? Come to think of it a person who is not elderly or infirm might want to sit down also for a variety of reasons. Like maybe they are very tired. Does anybody really care? If so, they are imposing unrealistic requirements that may not suit everyone.

Peter Kushkowski

12

Peter Kushkowski replied to Carolyn Robe's comment

Hold that thought, Carolyn, until when you're your parents' age... 80s....

rachel b

6

rachel b replied to Peter Kushkowski's comment

I agree with Carolyn. At my church at least, we ask people to stand if they are able. If they are not able or prefer not to, they can sit. If the pastor or worship leader does not make people feel welcome if they are sitting, I think that's a problem. Now, depending upon where they are sitting, if others are standing, they probably cannot see the screen, the speaker or singer, etc. But it should always be an option. I have sat myself when I haven't felt up to standing for whatever reason. I'm not "that" old.

Ishy V

2

Ishy V commented…

Jesus also said that they will know we are His disciples by His love, and that's the only thing I look for in a church. Yes, sometimes people don't get along, and I think we all have a long ways to go to learn to love one another, but there are a lot of churches of all persuasions who do not exhibit this mark. I'd rather go to an untrendy church where people are doing their best to follow Christ and pouring out themselves in service to those around them, than to the popular church with the coolest music where people leave it all behind each week once they walk out the doors.

As for sitting down, I had a broken foot a couple of years ago, and sat down, in a large church where it was fairly dark during worship. At least 3-4 people commented after that I sat down, every single week. Sadly, there are people that think following the procedure makes you more holy, and they will point it out. I really don't care what people think, but I imagine those that do would feel pressured to remain standing. Plus, I couldn't see the words on the screen.

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