I wonder how Jesus feels when “his children” talk about “his church”?
Now these may not be blatant murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples but they also are not the most loving and kind words. And I think Jesus personally feels the pain.
In Acts 9 “Saul was breathing out murderous threats agains the Lord’s disciples”. In his encounter with Jesus we discover a convicting biblical truth. Saul was breathing out murderous threats agains the Lord’s disciples and Jesus said to him “Saul, Saul, why do you persecut me.” Saul asked “who are you, Lord”? and Jesus answered “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”
Jesus didn’t say, “why are you persecuting my disciples”.
Jesus didn’t say, “why are you persecuting my church.”
Jesus said, “why are you persecuting me.”
You see the way we treat others is the way we treat Christ (Matthew 25:31-46). And the “church” is his bride. There is a special relationship between a man and his bride that you don’t mess with. I am a husband and I love my bride. Don’t you dare talk trash on my bride. Don’t you dare let me hear you say harsh things toward her. You talk bad about my wife and you have me to deal with (like I am really scary – but you get my point).
The Church is the bride of Christ with all of her wrinkles, quirks, oddities, and shortcomings.
Now I am not talking about a building, a tradition, a program, a style, or anything like that. I am talking about people. Unfortunately people are attached to these environments and sometimes we have a difficult time separating the actions and environments from the people and when we talk trash on “churches” we end up including and hurting people who are loving their “husband” the best they know how.
But probably the thing that saddens me the most is the difference between Saul and modern day persecuters. Saul was out to destroy the “Church”. He was not a follower of the way and he didn’t have a realtionship with Christ that would change his outlook and actions. Today many of the modern day persecuters are the Church themselves. We persecute our own. People whose lives have been transformed by the saving grace of God are gossipping about their fellow followers. People who have been forgiven are unforgiving. People who don’t like to be criticized are being critical. People who “by this time outght to be teachers” (Heb 5:12) complain about teachers who don’t teach to their standard and expectation.
This is especially relevant to those of us who are stepping out of the traditional and conventional models to go and make a difference in a new and different way. We must be cautious not to persecute Christ in the process.
Think about your life… How do you treat Christ? How do you treat him at work? How do you treat him in traffic? How do you treat him at home? How do you treat him in the foyer of the church? How do you treat him when you are sitting with a group of friends at a coffee shop?
Think about your day today… What can or will you do differently or intentionally today to Love Christ vs. persecute him? Is there somebody who comes to mind who you can love Christ through today? Are there others who may need an appology?
Remember, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these bothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)