Ephesians 5: 25bjust as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
Early on I competed in team sports, but I came to a place where I was frustrated with the effort I saw around me and wanted more control over the outcome; something I could fully own – good or bad. This led me to distance racing (marathons, trail races, multi-day triathlons and ski marathons). From doing everything with a team, this was a stark contrast as I spent many solitary hours running roads and trails. What I found, however, was that even with a sport as individual as running, to be my best I had to be part of a team. I read an article written by a runner mom entitled “Running is a Team Sport”. In it, Jesica acknowledges there is: “only one person who can force you to wake up before the sun begins to rise on a Saturday morning for a long run. Only one person who can choose to keep going and dig deep, even when quitting seems like the better option.” Obviously that is you, but after joining a marathon & triathlon training club, she also realized that running was a team sport made up of people who: “tell you you’re doing awesome, even when you feel like crap”, and who “is 2 minutes faster per mile than you but hangs back to talk you through the hard miles and make sure everyone safely crosses a busy intersection”. Beyond the above, I’d also add that they’re often filled with people who give you the kick in the pants you need when you are wimping out or conversely abusing your body. There are elite runners who are going it alone without a training team, but they’re few and far between and I wonder whether they’d have more success on the right team.
If you’re an individual sport athlete, I’m sure the above makes sense. Going it alone without a team is a poor strategy. I find it the same when it comes to Christianity. Over the years I have met several “Christians” who have confessed that they love Jesus, but they just don’t love the church. They all have their list of “good reasons” for not being part of a church, usually because of past hurts. As many say, “the church is full of hypocrites”. “I have my own church, it’s me and Jesus!”. For others, “I get together with a couple Christians friends. That’s my church”. I heard a young man recently preach: “The only one who can define what church is, is the one who created the church.” In other words, you can tell me, and for that matter God, what church is all you want, but his word will scream the truth back to you. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Ephes. 5:25-27). Every born-again believer knows Christ died for them, but do they realize he died for the church? And we’re not just talking the universal church of believers, but also the local church. Look at what Paul and the other disciples sacrificed for the local churches (read Acts through to 2 Thessalonians). Paul encouraged the Hebrew church not to give up “meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.” (Heb. 10:25). Just like you need a running team to support you and hold you accountable, spiritually we need to: hear the word, be corrected, be rebuked and be encouraged (2 Timothy 4:2). More than anything, we need to be obedient to our creator who died for the church and whose blessing is found in the church. Don’t abandon the church because of a bad experience. Pray and go find another one and realize that there is no perfect church, because even if there were, it would no longer be perfect when YOU walk through the door. Be humble!