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Aug 22 2013
The church needs grace, too.

I've talked to a lot of young (and not so young) Christians about their disappointment in the church. Many have been hurt by the church. Many more hurt for others who have borne the brunt of the church's injustices and failures.

Some of those I've talked to have been subject to criticism or suspicion because they have loved art, or music, or words, or peace, or people that the church has rejected or merely overlooked.

They have felt compassion for the outsiders spurned by the church.

They have studied history and are rightly angry over the racism of the church.

They have witnessed the present and are bewildered by the continued marginalization of some by the church.

They say the church is too shallow, caught up in outward trappings which sacrifice the substance of the gospel.

They have found the church too unwelcoming of hard questions, expressions of doubt, and spiritual struggles.

They have heard the call for war made in the name of the church.

They have seen the lure of lucre play out in the church.

They are disappointed that the church has not done what Jesus refused to do: overturn the prevailing political system and replace it with one built on Christian ideals.

They have seen co-workers disrespected and treated rudely by people who then turn around and pray over their meals.

They have seen—or been—the fallen woman (although not likely, inexplicably, the fallen man) treated not like a beloved sister but like a cup full of spit.

If only the church would see such as these with the eyes of Christ, they say.

And I say, in return, emphatically, Yes. If only we could see all with the eyes of Christ.

Yet, I want to say, gently or perhaps not-so-gently, That way you want the church to love those you love? Unconditionally, enthusiastically, and compasstionately? That's how you are called to love the church, too.

That forbearance, that tolerance, that grace, you extend so generously and rightly to the lost and the disobedient? That's what you are called to offer to the church.

To those who say that the church is too petty and political, too corporate-minded and culturally accommodating, I say, yes, it's true. Indeed, the wounds wrought by the church are fresh every morning.

The church is like that unfaithful woman God commanded the prophet Hosea to marry and have children with. The church is like that same errant woman God later commanded Hosea to seek and bring home, her and her children by other lovers. The church is like that unlovable woman God commanded Hosea to love. Yes, the church is like the prostitute Gomer: wayward and compromising, unfaithful to her promises, unlovable.

The bride of Christ? She's a whore.

Love her.

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