CHURCH & MINISTRY
Loving God — Hurtful Church
How can we understand how God cares for us if His people — the church — ignore and harm us?
By Christopher Schwinger
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Unconditional love is also proactive love which initiates good, rather than waiting for others to win your favor. The Parable of the Good Samaritan is a powerful example of unconditional love. "While we were helpless, Christ died for the ungodly" is a statement from Paul with the same theme (Romans 5:6). In the Old Testament, the Exodus was the event that taught them about this, as the Israelites were idolaters when God delivered them. In the New Testament, Jesus initiated good to all of humanity before we even understood it. This is an inspiration to me because even if His lack of direct involvement is frustrating, and other people cause me much pain and hindrance and discouragement, I know how Jesus feels about it. His unconditional love is inspiring and helps me during that frustration, much as memory of the Exodus helped the Israelites through many centuries and still encourages the Jews. A belief in a past event is the necessary source of inspiration. Though the New Testament rarely speaks of God encouraging someone who's feeling rejected, its statements about Jesus as the advocate for the sinner can be utilized for comfort in sorrow because it's all based on the remembrance of His resurrection. Hebrews 7:25 is a statement of faith about eternal life, but change that word "save" to "comfort", and the verse becomes powerful in a new way because it still has the words "always lives": "Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them."
3. The church is "the body of Christ." Paul's most original theology, in my opinion, is not his "law" vs. "grace" dualism, but his "body of Christ" extended metaphor in 1 Corinthians 12. Something Paul could've added is that since Christ is the head of the body — the brain — then He feels the pain even though the individual parts don't all feel the pain. If I have pain in a part of my body but it doesn't affect the function of the rest of my body, the rest of my body doesn't care. So it is with many people who are neglected by the church or whose needs are inappropriately considered less important, for whatever reason. Paul's metaphor is excellent at showing the disgrace of a body at war with itself. If someone expressed a struggle with faith, and got shut down so that he/she feels estranged (a personal experience of mine), it's like if I had a weak leg needing to be held by my hand as I'd walk, for support. But the hand doesn't like having to condescend to the right leg's weakness and hits the right leg, which doesn't hurt the hand but makes the leg weaker. The whole body is less effective as a result. Even when the function of the body is not noticeably affected, the brain interprets a body part's pain sensations, so because the brain knows, the whole body "knows," but isn't equally affected. But if there's a gash on the right hand, then the left hand can band-aid it because the brain has told the left hand about it. If the left hand DOES NOT bandage the right hand, it's not out of ignorance, but because of lack of concern for the rest of the body. (See: 1 Corinthians 12:14-26.)
This inspires me because it tells me that God is empathetic. The Book of Hebrews says the same thing, but from the perspective of Christ as one who has also suffered. It's true that we must take it all on faith that God is acting on our behalf even when other people aren't. Even though I wish it was easier, those are a few things which I try to stay inspired by as I try to believe that God is better than those around me, even if I can't experience direct action by Him like I want. In my first point, I remind myself that God is bestowing responsibility on us by being somewhat hands-off in human affairs. (His actions also can only be discerned in hindsight many times.) In my second point, I think about the idea of unconditional love, that God seeks us instead of just expecting us to seek Him. This is how He combined the offices of priest and prophet: a priest expects you to come to him to make you right with God, but a prophet seeks out the people. (I believe the prophets in the Bible probably directed their words to the people most of the time, and wrote out condemnations of enemy nations to instruct the people of Israel/Judah about the consequences of sin.) If God seeks us even more than we seek Him, then there is a deeper reality beyond what we feel or what circumstances display. If He's always wanting to get closer to me, and I feel like I'm striving to "find" a closer relationship with Him, then friendship with God must be deeper than emotions, and perhaps I'm closer to Him than my feelings tell me. Feelings are not the ultimate source of reality. In my third point, I ponder the Christian ideal of everyone caring for everyone else, and when that doesn't happen, I remember that Jesus, as the head of the church who Himself was abandoned by every single person and estranged from the Father in His last night and day, feels the pain. His proactive love and empathy are characteristics which we must believe He continues to have, by faith, even as the Old Testament and intertestamental people believed God had not forgotten His deliverance from Egypt and Babylon or His promises to Abraham.
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Tags: Biblical-Truth | Christian-Life | Church-Issues | God-Father | Hardships | Personal-Relationships
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