The Second Extreme: Contempt for the Lost
To both experience and celebrate God's grace, we must allow him to swallow us whole.
I've got good news, bad news, and hard news.
The good news: The best argument for God is the church. Everyday, God becomes accessible to a hurting world through the people of God. In our simple acts of compassion and servanthood, in our worship and ministry of the Word, through our breaking of bread, we make the invisible God visible. "No one has ever seen God," the apostle John writes in 1 John 4:12, "but if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is made complete in us." Even when we're at our worst, the church still stands as a powerful testimony of a God who will not let us go until he blesses us. There is not one period in history you can point to and say, "The church offered nothing to the world then. It lacked even the faintest ember of light." We've always given something.
The bad news: The worst argument for God is the church. Everyday, God becomes more remote to a cynical world because of the people of God. In our foolish acts of self-righteousness and self-indulgence, in our judgment and smugness, through our breaking of trust, we obscure God. "If anyone says, 'I love God,'" John continues, "yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, who he has not seen." Even when we're at our best, the church is still marred by hypocrisy, apathy, and false piety. There is not a single period in history you can point to and say, "Yes! There it is! The church in all its fullness, exactly as God intended it." We've always fallen short.
The hard news: The only real argument for God is the church. Put aside all philosophical defenses and well-oiled apologetics. Such things can convince the mind, but only the church, walking in the light, can ...
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Mark Buchanan is an Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology at the Ambrose Seminary in Calgary, Alberta, and the author of numerous books including Your Church is too Safe.