Christians are called to love the church. In a time when many organisations compete for our time and attention, this notion needs comment. While we do not disparage para-church organisations, such groups must not detract from the Lord's primary purpose in redemption. This is the love that the Lord Jesus Christ has for the church and in return any true disciple of His, must the love the church. That is if they truly love the Lord Jesus Christ, the one who is revealed in the Bible.
Ephesians 5:24-27 "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish".
John 13:34-35 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another".
One cannot love other Christians with a distant involvement in the life of other Christians. Love is a crucial part of New Testament Christianity, but we must ensure that our understanding of love is not based on our own flawed views of what love is. Commonly, when a couple embark on a path to marriage, there can be unrealistic expectations of marriage. Some ideas a couple may have may need tempering with genuine expectation and realism. Likewise we need realistic expectations of life as a church member in a local congregation.
Why is this? The Book of Revelation portrays seven New Testament churches with different flaws and imperfections. In three churches, the situation was so bad that, if the church members did not repent, then the Lord Jesus Christ was going to close down the church (These are the churches at Ephesus, Sardis and Laodicea). We need to realise that there is some aspect of these seven churches in most local churches, but we must also see our own need of grace and our own spiritual needs as well. Listen to the counsel of the Lord Jesus Christ:
Matthew 7:3-5 "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye".
These verses do not mean that we should lack spiritual discernment, but that we should be concerned about our own spiritual condition and be realistic about it. To be realistic about ourselves, is then a pathway for us to love the church as we should. Love includes consistency, commitment and an 'other preferring" nature. Church is not simply about me and my gifts. It is about worshipping the living God on his appointed day a day which is the Christian Sabbath.
Read the seven churches in Revelation from Chapters 2-3 in the Bible. And then get planted and rooted in a church, one that bears the marks of a true church, so that your Christianity can be worked out in a loving context. I have preached through the seven churches in Revelation recently and I have really enjoyed it. If you want to listen to these sermons, here is the website: www.sheffieldpres.org.uk