If we’re honest, we’ve all been there. You’ve been making a lot of progress with a non-Christian friend, and then another Christian comes along and blows it. They say something unnecessarily offensive, they come across as uneducated, they speak in ignorance, or worse—they speak in anger. And we want to sink into a hole of embarrassment.
Alright, maybe that has never been your experience. But I bet that you’ve been tempted to skip out on church in favor of sleeping in. (St. Mattress is calling out to you from your cozy pillow.) Or having a nice, slow-paced breakfast and listening to your favorite preacher via an online podcast. (Or if we’re honest, just binge-watching Netflix cause that’s what we want.)
But if we’re feeling super spiritual, in America today we have access to the best teachers in the world on our smartphones (living and dead), why not download these and pair it with our favorite worship music and a freshly roasted cup of coffee to form the world’s greatest and most perfect church!? The church of me, myself, and I! As Thomas Paine once claimed, “My mind is my church.” Who can do church better than me? Nobody!
It’s very tempting to think this way, and it would be nice to be able to have Jesus without the church. Honestly, sometimes other people get in the way. But that’s kind of the point. The problem with this thinking though is that Christianity is not convenient. It’s intentionally, from its very birthplace, a religion of inconvenience.
God didn’t just go his merry way, but he stopped and stooped down to us in his Son to save us from ourselves. Jesus didn’t do his own will in the Garden of Gethsemane, he didn’t take the easy way out—but he went to Jerusalem to suffer, bleed, and die for sinners. The earliest disciples didn’t do what was convenient—many of them were beaten and bludgeoned to death or hung on a cross.
Christianity is inconvenient.
Unfortunately for our personal taste buds, Christianity is a package deal that comes with both Christ and Christians. Often we think everyone else is the problem—but in reality, we are the problem. We should point fingers at ourselves first. What was that old saying that Jesus said? Oh yeah: “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5).
So here’s the deal. We can’t come to Jesus without also coming together with his people. It’s like having a head without a body. (That’s pretty ugly.) It’s like having a leader without any followers. (That’s pretty pathetic.) As the apostle Paul said, “so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Romans 12:5). We no longer belong to ourselves individually, but our unique identity is now part of an organic web—a whole—a corporate body that identifies us with each other and with Jesus Christ, our head.
But wait, there’s more! (Just ignore the sleazy car salesman voice that comes with that phrase.) Jesus told us that when we do something for another Christian, we actually do it for him (Matthew 25:40). In other words, when we serve the church we are serving Christ. When we love the church, we love Jesus. When we leave the church, we are in actuality leaving Christ. Podcast and iPhone Christianity isn’t looking so good anymore, is it?
The pancakes, though… (Just wake up earlier, or do it on Saturday.)
When we consider the words of our groom, Jesus, we realize that he has a place for his bride—the Church. As much as I may wish it, Jesus didn’t just marry me—he married we. Christ came to die for me, yes, but he also came to die for many others. His bride is part of me, and I am part of her—just as we are part of him.
As Paul taught elsewhere, “if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing?” (1 Corinthians 12:16-17). This means that the church needs us as much as we need the church. Every one of us is both needed and needy. We need to belong to this body—because we matter and because others matter to us.
The screaming infant and nursing mother matter as much as the preaching pastor. The elderly woman matters as much as the college student. The employed person matters as much as the unemployed, the rich as the poor, the weak as the strong—well, I hope you get the point. You need the church, and the church needs you.
So, go to church and be with other unloving, intolerant Christians who don’t get it right all of the time and all together need Jesus. Plus, at the end of the day, I really wouldn’t want a Christianity without Christians after all. How awfully boring that life would be.