I’ve been reading a little book called Key United Methodist Beliefs by William J. Abraham and David F. Watson. It’s fairly basic but an excellent introduction to its topic. In the chapter on the church I read the following which I thought was extremely well stated:
A lot of people want Jesus but they do not want his body. They are excited about what Jesus has done and they admire the amazing impact of his life across the centuries. They love who Jesus is, that he is the savior of the world, and they are thrilled at the change he brought in their lives in terms of forgiveness, new life, and hope for the future. However, they cannot stand all the faults and the problems they see in the Church. Others want his body but do not want Jesus. They love the benefits that come from going to church. They love the fellowship, the wonderful weddings, the music, and the opportunities for making new friends. They like the good things the Church does for the poor and for society as a whole. They are glad that when they die they will be given a good funeral. However, they prefer to keep Jesus at arm’s length. They do not want to get too close to Jesus in case it interferes with what they want to do. Hence one often finds a deep tension among those who follow Jesus: some want Jesus but reject the Church while others want the Church but reject Jesus.
Given that the Church is the body of Jesus, we do not get to make these choices. If we vote for Jesus and follow him, then we have to come to terms with life in his body. And if we accept the benefits of his body, we have to come to terms with the source of those benefits in Jesus. If we are patient, we will see how these really fit together beautifully. As we come to terms with Jesus, we discover what it means to see that he is truly raised from the dead. He is not a dead Jesus hidden in a book or locked up in the past; he is present wherever two or three are gathered in his name, and he works in and through his body. As we come to terms with the good things the Church offers, we will see that they all stem from the action of Jesus both in his own lifetime and in his action through the Holy Spirit in and through the Church. We can start with the owner of the house and then explore the house; or we can start with the house and then explore the work of the owner.
Due to certain events in my life recently I’ve grown stronger in my love for the Church. With all the problems she has she is still the body of Christ and his beloved bride. I love her.
Key United Methodist Beliefs is from Abingdon Press. It is a paperback with 172 pages and sells for $15.99.