A much beloved pastor made brief mention of a discussion that has been going on for ages, the “believe, behave, belong” debate. There is a wealth of information available about this subject on the internet, from all sides of the discussion, some who I agree with and some I don’t. Here’s a few links, and here and here.
I can’t fix the whole world, (although I do think we should tidy the place up a bit before His return) so I shall just focus on myself and the nature of the area where I live. Me, I totally believe, I believe so powerfully that I sometimes think of myself as a Doubting Thomas, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” John 20:29. I have so, so seen. How could I not believe?
So I do very well on the “believe” aspect and “behave” too, although I have stumbled about a bit like a drunken toddler who has consumed too much milk, but God has always been right there. All in good fun here, but since I am nothing but trouble, it is probably a good thing I am in His hands, the best hands of all.
Which brings us to the “belonging” part or as some have put it, don’t you know how to win friends and influence people? Which always compels me to quip, wait, is that important?? Well, yes and no. When one is truly convicted, justified, sanctified, claimed by Jesus Christ, one belongs to the body, to the church. We are the church, the church is not a building, a particular denomination, or a handful of believers somewhere. We are the church. Given the circumstances that could mean all twelve of us…or two or more.
The belonging part is challenging for me. That comes from having learned the hard way not to seek the approval of men (people) because without fail they will let me down. I come from some pretty militant atheism, if I had gone about seeking the approval of men all my life rather than listening to God, I wouldn’t be a believer at all. I must say however, that somehow, someway God has always placed a handful of believers in front of me. I take these words seriously, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.“ Hebrews 10:25
So absolutely I believe in the church and that is where you will find me at least once a week, if not more. In a church or a bible study somewhere.
There are many others however, who struggle with the belonging part far more than I do, the unchurched church, and that is where my heart often lies, with those who have rejected the church, those outside the church, many powerful believers who love Christ, but for whatever reason struggle with His people, with accepting His church. There are still others who have lost their faith entirely. I empathize with some of them, I understand. I have had no problem loving Jesus Christ, but when He pointed out that it meant I also had to love His people, I about panicked. No so easy. And they aren’t all nice either!
I realize I sometimes offend people, that some are hurt by my words that do not always portray all Christians in a positive light, that dare to suggest that some of the unchurched church have valid reasons for walling themselves off, that some non believers even have rational reasons for pulling away, that not all Christian virtue is rooted in well, virtue.
I ask hard questions. I have to. It’s necessary to speak the truth. So those who are offended, I invite you to come alongside me instead. I’ve actually learned a few things in this walk and I’ve had the best Teacher.