Everywhere we turn we are smacked up side the head by political, religious, social, geographic, and/or economic polarization. It seems to be a steam train bearing down on us. Our politicians at all levels have made an art of it, in fact. Unfortunately, the church is not immune. I grew up in a church against which my paternal Grandfather had preached. No, not immune.
In the Church we see the world’s polarizations reflected. Our bases are theological and couched in terms of purity of doctrine or worship. Nonetheless they polarize and cause divisions. We voice words of concern and ‘love’ with one side of our mouth all the while spouting condemnation and judgment from the other.
Rather than leading the world by examples of love and forgiveness to our shame we parrot the world. Where there should stand a whole, unified body of grafted parts lies an infirm, wounded patient with segmented, warring appendages. Jesus’ crimson healing stream bubbles from the rips, tears, and scratches. It spills on the ground and is trampled under foot, with no healing accomplished. The forgiving flow of Jesus’ blood is disrupted, stopped, and coagulating. It forms blood blisters where it is dammed up. His body languishes in self-destructive behaviors: cutting and self-mutilation, obesity, or anorexia/bulimia. We’ve gone St. Paul one better – we attempt to self-amputate those ‘unseemly’ parts. Like the stiff-necked Israelites, “How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness and grieved Him in the desert. They constantly tested God and provoked the Holy One of Israel.” (Psalms 78:40-41 HCSB) One possible translation of ‘grieve’ is ‘to cut at or torture’.
I’m aware the setting for the following verses is Jesus revealing the manner in which He would die.
“As for Me, if I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to Myself." (John 12:32 HCSB)
“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15 HCSB)
But consider, we – the church – are now His body (“in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another.” (Romans12:5 HCSB)). As I see it, that body is wounded and infirm. Much of its time is spent flat on its back and its strength can hardly tilt the head let alone raise it.
Not until Jesus’ blood flowed freely on Calvary was forgiveness and life offered to mankind, “For this is My blood that establishes the covenant; it is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28 HCSB) In the Church Body our judgmental attitudes and spiritual bigotry hinder forgiveness’ blood’s free flow. At best we diminish the efficacy of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection. Only when we freely give and receive, that is live in, forgiveness will His true gospel go forth. Only when Jesus’ body is healthy is He, the Head, lifted up. Only when lifted up will He “draw all men.”
Until we yield to the Spirit’s conviction and begin living in forgiveness we are on the express track to a slab in the morgue that we call church.