A few Sundays a month, I have the privilege of standing on the sanctuary stage at Grace Redeemer Church and looking out into our congregation. This always reminds me of how much I treasure the Church (and I don’t mean 21 Harristown Road). I love the Capital C Church and how God designed it for our good and for his glory. Here are some reasons why the Church is beautiful to me, and I hope this meditation is helpful to your heart as well.
The Church is a refuge for weary sinners.
It can be easy to get caught up in our rhythms of “going to church” or “doing ministry”, but let us remember that the reason we gather is because “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst” (1 Tim 1:15). Being a sinner in need of a Saviour is the most beautiful common denominator that there is. It doesn’t matter what car we drove into the lot on Sunday, what job we have (or don’t have), what college we went to (or didn’t). There is no outsider in the Church of Jesus. Indeed, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all ONE in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Let me tell you; to look out among you all on a Sunday morning and see you worshipping Jesus is a beautiful thing. Only in Christ can such differences come together, because we are all there for the same reason; we are weary sinners who stand on the solid Rock of Jesus.
Second, the Church leads to our sanctification, which in turn brings glory to God. Scott Hubbard, an editor of Desiring God, recently wrote, “I sometimes think I could be very holy if, after doing my morning devotions, I just stayed in my room all day long.” Oof. I think of a conversation I had a few months ago with a believing friend also involved in ministry, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to call our discussion heated, I would certainly have labeled it passionate and animated! Yet, in that moment, and by God’s grace, we recalled Jesus’ calling of his 12 disciples. 12 very different men, some of whom were probably very much at odds. And yet Jesus chose them specifically, knowing it might cause disagreements or contention among them. And did Jesus know what he was doing! Peter, one of those disciples, wrote later in life:
“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” – 1 Peter 1:22-23.
Peter is reminding us of a love that requires humility. It took humility (and the grace of God!) in that “animated” conversation of mine to remember that the Lord is the Lord. And in his Church are many many different people, with different ideas, different views and different personalities. And yet Jesus has called us all together for his purposes.
In that same vein, I humbly put before you some of Jesus’ words from the end of his life:
“A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34.
A believing friend of mine described her life’s motto as this: “Live in a way that makes people ask questions”. If you consider yourself to be crucified with Christ, and that the life you live is His, I’d invite you to especially consider her words, because truly, this is what the Church has been doing since its beginning. Why would Christians in 1st century Rome go singing to their death as they are martyred for their faith? Why would a mom on the playground extend herself to the parent with the really tough kid, even though she’d rather shy away like everyone else? Why would a family with five young children sell their house, pack up their life in a few suitcases, and move to serve refugees in the Middle East? The world is left asking, “Why would you do such a thing?”
I humbly submit to you that it is because these people have met Jesus. They have responded in obedience to love as their risen Lord has loved, and they trust that what he asks of them is good, even if it means upending their lives. This is God’s Church, my brethren. Amen!
Erika Bourque serves as the Worship Director at GRC.