Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Bride of Christ or Cheap Whore?

I don't know if this really falls into the 'Godly marriage' category, but it definitely falls onto the rabbit trail that I warned you would happen when I first started this blog! :-) I posted....goodness, I think in November! about 'what is the church?' This is a continuation of that, and I imagine there will be at least one more post in this "series".

Many years ago, we had a situation in our church. It was necessary to implement church discipline. Our church had never done that before (at least it had be a very loooong time since it had), and it didn't go so well. The person being brought under discipline basically threw their membership in our faces and walked away, and several other members left as well ~ believing that discipline was not the 'loving' thing to do.

So, this created in my mind a question as to the validity of church membership. It had obviously made no difference in that situation, so what difference *did* it make? If someone is committed to a body of believers, then they are committed whether or not there is a piece of paper stating it to be so, and if they decide they are not going to be, then that piece of paper makes no difference. Right? Of course, that kind of sounds like an argument that couples who live together but won't marry use. We're committed to each other whether or not there is a piece of paper saying we are. Right...whatever...

And then there is the argument that there isn't a command in Scripture to have church membership. So, there isn't a "Thou shalt be a registered member of a church". Does that mean that church membership isn't a Biblical principle? And often, not always, but often, the people that use these "excuses" to not hold a church membership end up being church hoppers. They come into a body, stay a while; until the pastor isn't meeting their expectations, or until someone offends them, or tries to hold them accountable, or until they get bored, or whatever, and then they move on to a different church where they stay until a similar scenario happens and then they move on yet again.

I think to really address the issue we have to look at the God we serve. The God who happens to be the Creator of the Universe, the Giver of Life, the Foundation of the Church. The One who gave His Son to die for His bride, the church. What is God like? Is He fickle in His relationships? Is He committed? Is He a loner, or does He live in community?

God is a God of community. As the Bible opens with the book of Genesis, we see Him creating the world and everything within it. He creates man and says that it is not good that man is alone, so He creates woman to be man's companion and helpmeet. But God is not satisfied with that, He also spends time each day, in the cool of the evening, walking with man in the garden. This is a God that values relationship. We continually see broken relationship as punishment. When Cain kills Abel, he becomes an outcast ~ God does protect his life, but He is still left to be a wanderer. When Moses kills the Egyptian, he must flee everything, everyone he knows. And on through to the New Testament, where we are told to put those believer's in unrepentant sin out of fellowship.

God is faithful and true. If you are one of His chosen children, there is nothing you can do to cause Him to stop loving you or stop being faithful to you. How should this aspect of His character affect how we treat the church?

We also know that our God is covenantal. He shows His commitment to relationships by covenanting. He makes covenants with Abram, Noah and Moses, and through the blood of Christ, He has made a covenant with all believers. God *commits* in a very real, tangible way to those He chooses, to those He will be faithful to, to those He loves. I believe that our church membership mirrors this characteristic of God. No, there isn't a 'thou shalt' when it comes to church membership, but what would God do? What does He do? He doesn't just leave it up to emotions and want to's to be involved. He commits.

I have already referred to the church as the Bride of Christ. We know that. It's in scripture. But are we treating her that way?  A few years ago, at the home discipleship conference we attend, one of the speakers talked about the church and our attitude toward her. He talked about the church being Christ's bride, and how that should affect our attitude toward our local body of believers. We need to look at the church ~ local and universal and see the Bride that Christ *died* for. If she is worth His life, should we treat her so flippantly and disrespectfully? It really impacted me, and likely was the beginning of this set of posts.

Watching various people in our lives who move from one church body to another, not for any real, valid reason ~ such as heresy being preached from the pulpit, or sins being ignored, etc., but for preferences or offenses, or whatever...it makes me think on how it affects the body of believers, what does it do to the body to have these non-committed people just moving in and out of our midst? How does it affect their children? What are they learning ~ not how to faithful. What are they taking in about the church?

Is the church the Bride of Christ, or a Cheap Whore? How do you treat her? She *is* the Bride, so if you aren't treating her like that, how disrespectful is it to her Groom, our Lord Jesus Christ?