Why do churches hurt people? John van der Laar has the following very cool quote in a recent post on his blog. (From Carlo Carreto).
How much I must criticize you, my church, and yet how much I love you! You have made me suffer more than anyone and yet I owe more to you than to anyone. I should like to see you destroyed and yet I need your presence. You have given me much scandal and yet you alone have made me understand holiness. Never in this world have I seen anything more compromised, more false, yet never have I touched anything more pure, more generous or more beautiful. Countless times I have felt like slamming the door of my soul in your face - and yet, every night, I have prayed that I might die in your sure arms! No, I cannot be free of you, for I am one with you, even if not completely you. Then too - where would I go? To build another church? But I could not build one without the same defects, for they are my defects. And again, if I were to build another church, it would be my church, not Christ's church. No, I am old enough, I know better.
My thoughts are so mixed with this. Is any relationship idyllic and fairytale-like? If it was, wouldn't we worry? In this last week I've been through the extremes of feeling about my church. Loving it and hating it. When I was sore it was awful. But the fact is that a meaningful relationship has times of pain and times of joy. The deeper the relationship, the more the struggles. I'd love my relationships to be free of pain - but it is not realistic in any setting. Even our relationship with God involves both pain and joy. People (including myself!) have very unfair expectations of the church sometimes.
Still thinking, still wondering . . .
Thursday, November 27, 2008
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Yes, but how much is Carreto really saying? And the way I see it, the relationship is with Christ, not so much the Church. Personally, I don't think the Church should be anyone's focus, it's merely a by-product of something more primary. I hope that's intelligible!
I think it was CS Lewis who said something like - if you come to Christ you come to his family also. You can't have one without the other. Our relationship with Jesus is primary - I hear what you are saying - but I don't think the church is a by-product.
Your post took me back to the screening committee, in which I was asked the question: "Have you ever felt let down or disappointed by God?"
After some thought, my (honest) answer was this: "By those who call themselves God's people - plenty. By God's church - sometimes. By God - NEVER!"
I guess that this, along with God's call on our lives, is what keeps us going. If it was about an institution, I'd have gone for the bucks (in secular employment) instead.
Have a blessed Christmas, travel safely to Grahamstown, and I'll see you in PE in the new year. And don't forget - I owe you coffee, and you owe me a burger!
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