As we’ve looked at our beloved church in recent weeks from many angles, there seems to be much sickness and unhealthi-ness. Its condition reminds one of the Corinthian church, in which the chaos caused by human willfulness and sin was obstructing and impeding the fellowship and mission that Christ intended for that congregation of God’s people.
Before there could be new life for that church, death had to be put to death.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), with all of its members, officers, ministers, congregations, presbyteries, synods, General Assembly, lively interest groups, involvement in the world, its material wealth, its involvement in ecumenical ventures, concern about children and all the ills of society — it would seem that it was lacking nothing as far as being a faithful church is concerned.
But looking at the whole one feels deep concern that something needful — really needful — is missing in its common life.
What is missing? Love — love for God and fellow human beings, especially all the members of Christ’s church, especially our opponents in the church; love which is willing to suffer, love which is willing to lose, love that is even willing to die; love as unconditional commitment to the good of the Other — is absent from too many parts of the fellowship.
The healthiest part of the church — the congregations — exhibit love, joy, peace, gentleness far more than the higher governing bodies of the church and many of the institutions of the church. But even in the congregations there is much sadness, and many stories of deep distress involving pastors and members and others whose lives do not demonstrate the gospel we proclaim.
No one can see the Presbyterian Church as God does; certainly not this editor. But given the character of God, we must believe that God looks upon this church with deep love and compassion, crying over our misguided ways, chuckling at some of our idiocies, but always bearing with us, continuing to work through our people and structures, to make of this ancient institution a lively new instrument for God’s purposes in the 21st century.
If God raised Jesus from the dead, if God promises resurrection to each of us who repent and believe in him, then surely we can do no less than to hope with all our hearts that the sovereign, loving God, will grant health and new life to the Presbyterian Church in God’s own time.
Our charge is to wait — patiently and with hope — and daily to give our lives to the service of our Lord and our fellow human beings, thereby proclaiming the gospel to all people.
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