Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Powerful Ugly Creature

(A repost from a few years ago)

Quite often it is easy for those who would be devout Christians to become frustrated with the sad state of the Church -- and by this generally the sad state of the people next to them in the pews (or failing to be in the pews next to them) is meant. And throughout the course of history, no small lack of theological idiocy has arisen as people have tried to come up with new plans to fix this - whether it be pietism where you basically take the "scared straight" approach, or even the approach that seems popular today, where you focus so much on grow-grow-grow in order to just replace those slackers with a hopefully unending supply of new givers. . . um. . . I mean, new members who have full pockets. . . um. . . I mean are full of zeal.

When thoughts and frustrations like this arise, I would suggest that we would do well to remember two things about just who we are in the Church.

1. We aren't the hero, we are the damsel in distress.

What do I mean by this? In the story of our lives, we aren't the hero who comes in swashbuckling and saving the day. We aren't the clever ones who outwit the Devil, we aren't the ones who by our own strength knock down the foes. We are the damsels. We are the ones who are distressed by our own sin, locked in the tower of our wickedness. We are the ones who are rescued when Christ comes being born of a virgin, when He shatters the shackles of sin with His death and resurrection.

As such, we shouldn't focus on how WE are going to do something to make the Church grow. We aren't the ones who do the rescuing - Christ is. As such, let us simply attend to His Word, and let Him rescue people by His Word. Too often the temptation is to think things rely upon us - what are we doing to do to make things right. We forget that we are the ones who are made right by Christ.

2. In and of ourselves, we are some powerful ugly creatures.

(This phrasing is lifted from the show Firefly which you should have watched already by now. . . if not, it makes a lovely Christmas present)

What does this mean? When we start wanting to fix the Church, fix other people in the Church, make them better Christians. . . we forget how broken and in need of healing we ourselves are. Christ speaks to this with that whole speck in the neighbor's eye, ignoring the log in our own. I'll say this -- we are damsels in distress, but the hero doesn't come and rescue us because we ourselves are beautiful -- no, we are some powerful ugly creatures.

The problem is that we can. . . forget this. We can start playing the comparison game. The Christian faith is not a race to make sure you are better than your neighbor - it doesn't matter what your neighbor has done - the question is you and your actions. Are you perfect? And the answer is no, and so you've got plenty to tend to in yourself. You might be the prettiest girl in uglyville, but that still means you're ugly. And we can become filled with pride and just become nasty folk.

The Christian faith isn't our hero tale - it isn't where Christ comes to us because we are so lovely - it is the story of where Christ comes with joy and gladness, and He binds to Himself a powerful ugly creature, and He makes her to be His beautiful bride, without spot or blemish through the washing of the water and the Word.

He is the One who does this for you, and He is the One who does this for any and all. Let Him be the One who is active, let Him be the One who is active even in you.

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