So, for a class assignment we were asked to write our own “working definition” of the Church. Up until it was time to do this assignment I thought to myself, “this will be easy!” But, of course this wasn’t easy. Perhaps the whole experience of church is likened to a 2 year old kid who is experiencing the taste of ice-cream for the very first time. I saw it and touched it! I’ve had a taste of the sweet goodness. Of course, I’ll have some more. And, like the 2 year old, I’m still left with the question, “What is it?” Asking myself again and again, “What is the Church?” is a beautiful reminder of the divine mystery that Jesus has blessed us with. It’s where the Divine dwells with-us. May we, like the 2 year old loves ice-cream love the taste of the church and always be willing to wrestle with the questions that rise up from our hearts, wondering what is it?
The Church is always broadening with depth and width as my own experience of Christ’s love matures. Typically, I’ve referred back to Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:20 whenever I’m giving a quick and short definition: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them”.
My first experiences in the church were as a child growing up in the Southern Baptist denomination where my local church community embraced some legalistic thinking and beliefs. Therefore, I struggled with doubt as a child/young adult with my salvation. I wanted assurance that Jesus was actually in my heart. I experienced years of praying the sinner’s prayer and living in fear of disappointing the local church community as well as God. It wasn’t until my college years when I was exposed to grace in a Bible-teaching church that I began to learn what the Bible truly taught about salvation and that discipleship was the tool for learning how to follow Jesus and be transformed.
I’ve been spending a lot of time in 2 Peter, lately. As I consider the Church, I think of an inclusive group of Jesus followers who resemble the community Peter was talking to in 2 Peter 1:3-15. We, (The Church) exist as a very large troop of people who are redeemed by the blood of Jesus, Who is healing us through our salvation. In all of the restoration that God is doing within each of us individually as well as communally, we are participating with God in his divine nature to bring his kingdom to the world (vs. 4).
As imperfect as we are, we love God and we’re patiently learning how to do life with God as Jesus modeled it. Through the presence of the Holy Spirit, we have vision and meaning that supports our faith (vs. 5-8); the Spirit draws those who are looking for vision and meaning into the community. As the Church, we worship together, love on one another, and remind one another of the truth and the beauty that surrounds us (vs. 12 – 15). We are the Church.