A church responsibility has drawn me to re-explore the 7 Churches of Revelation and Jesus’ words to them through John the beloved. Though interpreted differently, it seems that these churches represent all churches at all times in all places. In the letters, we see how Jesus Christ loves His bride in both tough and tender ways.
What has most captured me is the fact that in spite of all of their problems, Jesus is still revealing Himself to and through the aged Apostle for the purpose of encouraging and correcting these assemblies. Jesus could have bolted, but He is still walking among the lampstands. He could have given them the silent treatment but He’s still speaking, still affirming and confronting. He has not abandoned them. His love persists through it all.
It’s easy to lose the balance. My nature is to home in on Jesus’ corrections for the churches, preaching them (too) loudly and vigorously. Clean up your act! All the while, there are parts of my act that aren’t all that clean. But that part of me nurtured by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil likes to keep company with those I can judge. It’s the same reason I watch “Biggest Loser.” In the case of these churches, I can even appeal to the Lord Himself. Jesus agrees with me. However, a steady diet of correction does not build up the church but rather tears it down with discouragement. Church feels bad. We continually come up short. Why try?
The opposite response would be to focus only on the commendations. This is “feel good” church. When I parachute in for a single Sunday with a church, I tend to tilt this direction in the pulpit. Make ‘em feel good. Maybe they’ll invite me back. I can hammer them next time. Lighten up. Make church comfy. Let’s just overlook those shortcomings, backslidings, and sins. Sadly, this results in a mixed and weak church that falls far short of the noble privilege of our God-created, Christ-redeemed, Spirit-empowered humanity.
Jesus finds the sweet spot. He commends every church and corrects most of them. He walks among them with both a carrot and a stick, embracing and prodding. Both stances are correct and true, for He is righteous, just, and true. He commends and corrects because He cares in ways beyond my comprehension.
Max Lucado captured that beautiful balance of grace for growth with these words: “It’s dangerous to sum up grand truths in one statement, but I’m going to try. If a sentence or two could capture God’s desire for each of us, it might read like this: God loves you just the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus.”
Thanks Max. I want to be like Jesus. Thank you Jesus, for prodding and hugging me on the way. Thank you for grace to grow.