To really look at The Church, one must look at Peter. The disciple of Jesus who fervently loved and betrayed his Lord. Peter was the only one to walk out on the stormy waters to meet Jesus, but doubted to the point of drowning. Only to be rescued. "Peter, you of little faith." Peter announced his profound love and following of Jesus, but after Jesus's crucifixion, denied even knowing him 3 times. This is the same man Jesus said, Peter you are the Rock in which I will build my church and not even the gates of hell can destroy it. Jesus foretold Peter's denial but in the same way shed grace enough to build a church of imperfect, spiritually thirsty people to give them the well of the living water---The Holy Spirit.
The Church is not meant to be a place to come together to feel better about yourself or to learn to be a good person. The Church truly is supposed to be the living body of Christ. Each part has its function and to lift up the other parts. I'm realizing more and more that the body of Christ is there to support each other to be perfect, as God is perfect. Knowing myself and how imperfect, selfish, vain I can be....it seems impossible. But the cool thing is the promise of grace. I am made perfect in Christ with the constant renewal of my mind. But again, I don't think the main idea is to be good, but to love God with our whole body, heart, soul, mind. How do we love God? Specifically by loving others. Love our neighbors, love those who persecute us, love those who are cast out from society, love the weak and those who need love the most. Not to make ourselves feel good (getting reward) but by sharing hope of a living God with the hopeless.
I just can't get over that God shared this message to extend love to society's "lowest" of people--the beggars, thieves, liars, disabled, diseased, the outcast.....
Now I don't think people have a problem with this part of Christ's message. I'm not sure that's offensive. I think what people have trouble with is that Jesus called his followers to quit sinning. That is the all the difference. Being a Christian is a difficult decision because it means that one has to deny themselves which is opposite of what feels natural. I want to challenge that. If sinning and evil is natural, then why not work hard to overcome those "natural" desires to put ourselves first? I've tried to put rules on myself to help with the sin. Let me tell you, it hasn't worked. But when I focus on purity and love, grace covers any sin.
So with Peter, The Rock, he was pretty rocky. But his love and drive to share the hope of the living God showed how grace gives us strength. People will always look for Christ followers to mess up so they can easily shout "Hypocrite!" but knowing that "Yes, I am imperfect, daily made perfect by the forgiveness of all transgressions" will help me persevere when I feel weakest. The Church is the rock to get that strength and foundation to be able to fervently love others in the face of hate, persecution, and our own selfish desires. A place of strength to rebuild our lives in the wake of tragedy, devastation, and personal defeats. A place of refuge and restoration. But the Church is not a place, as in a building, but it is in a body of people. A body of imperfect people with serious flaws. This was Jesus' plan all along. In our imperfections, we can only be humbled as we look towards heaven for guidance. Only in our humbleness are we able to lower ourselves and love others. It is easy for a wealthy man to give of his riches, but it is difficult for him to see the kingdom of heaven.
1 Peter 1:3-12 www.biblegateway.com