And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which you were indeed called in one body (Colossians 3:15).
Think you left your last church? I have some news: you’re still part of it, and every other church you left, too, if they proclaim the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
That’s because the Church is one body. We’re all in this together whether we like it or not.
We are not exempt from clothing ourselves with compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience toward fellow believers because we decide we don’t need them anymore (Colossians 3:12).
And we are certainly not exempt from loving one another, by Jesus’ own words: By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35). Christ is talking about loving their fellow disciples here. One another. The Church.
Let that sink in: We proclaim discipleship to something other than Jesus if we cannot love His other disciples. We give testimony a different gospel than the gospel of Christ — the One who loved us while we were yet sinners — if we cannot love each other in the same way. One another is a top priority.
It’s not easy. Not even close. And it wasn’t meant to be. Like in the covenant of marriage, the angst in belonging to the Church is built in, so that we might display the grace of Jesus to the world through our love for each other in spite of our sin. It’s there so that we can become more like Him.
All the bear with and forgive and patience is in the scriptures because we’re meant to need it. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them (Luke 6:32).
As with every close, committed relationship, we will get hurt, and we will hurt. The Pastor and I have done more than our share. We’ve also been crushed (and I do not use that word lightly) by the Church. But we have strived and prayed and cried and surrendered ourselves to move toward peace, even if that’s taken time.
Because we were indeed called to peace in this one body. We didn’t decide to come, and we can’t decide to go.
We are either Christians who are called to love the Church, or we can’t call ourselves Christians. The concepts are inseparable in scripture. Almost the entire New Testament — including this letter to the Colossians — is addressed to the Church as a community, not to individuals. The Spirit speaks, and the letters in Revelation go out to the church, to the church, to the church (Revelation 3). Jesus Himself never called us Christians, but He did call us the Church (Matthew 16:18, 18:17). It’s our name — the identity He has given us — and we cannot throw it off by our own cleverness or bitterness or will.
I used to care very much what church people belonged to; I selfishly wanted everyone to be a part of ours.
I don’t feel that way anymore. If you don’t have a regular gathering of believers to be part of, let me help you find one. If you go to our church and are thinking about leaving it, let me connect you to another one — I’ll call them and introduce you myself.
Two billion people around the world claim the name of our Savior. If we can’t find even a small group of them we can stand to be around consistently to sing a hymn, observe the sacrament, hear the Word, build community, show grace and reach new disciples with, it says far more about us than it does the Church.
So try everywhere. Go anywhere. Belong somewhere that may not check all your boxes, but that’s faithful to preach the gospel and teach the Word of God. Then root yourself there deeply so that you might have the shining privilege (and I don’t use that word lightly either) of loving and forgiving and bearing with other disciples to the glory of our Christ who did the same.