But though we may retain the tools, and keep the cultural bridges, these should never should become the focus nor distinctives of a Christian’s life.
Clearly, Christianity is fundamentally and solely God-defined. What is His definition of the Church? He defines it as residing and abiding in the living Body of Christ, with our Master as Head of the Body. (Significantly different from all other religions, and bound to be a continual source of much intellectual misunderstanding.)
Did you catch the television show “True Beauty?” I had never seen it but turned on the TV for the final 15 minutes-which happened to be the finale. In it, beautiful contestants, male and female, believed they were vying for a spot as one of the most beautiful people in the world. Unbeknownst to them, the judges were watching their behaviors, speech and attitudes on hidden cameras. Every week people were ordered off the show because they lacked "true" or inner beauty. Neither the objective nor method was revealed until the final show.
I reflected on the ‘hidden camera’ of the heart: the Holy Spirit, who not only knows of, but who reveals my "flaws" (sins) to me. Yet, it goes beyond being kind and courteous to people, it goes to the heart of who I am before our Lord. Am I living transparently before God?
In a related point, (which will become clearer later), assuming the truth that we are the Body of Christ, then it stands to reason that we are continually “in Church.” We do not go to Church, we are in it and part of it. At no time in my daily life do I do anything, give, receive, or speak outside the Church. Whether you are studying, cooking, helping, driving or sleeping, you are always in Church. But, I am either helping or hurting the Church of Christ all the time. The sanctity of the moment is derived from the Body of Christ. This is Kingdom work, this is missionary work!
If I had an accurate and continual consciousness of what this meant, our attitude towards life might be different. We would still have problems and misunderstandings, but we would accept the eventual working out of it all with patience, knowing our Lord is operating within the Church.
When I was raised in Roman Catholicism, I was taught certain things about being there. I was taught it was holy place to be. It followed that there were certain behaviors, manners and codes of dress that were to be observed-not because I would be sinning without them, but because it reflected my attitude towards the One, True, and Holy God. Out of concern for the First Commandment-and out of love-I respected that. Genuflecting (which has so fallen out of fashion), was expected: conforming my body to what my mental attitude should be. Other aspects reflecting my respect for Him was the signal of the ‘holy’ water upon entrance and exit: noting to myself that I was entering His house. And though I was a country bumpkin, I wore a dress, did not climb trees near the church. I was not to run in church, nor to walk on the altar, or even walk with my back to it. Naturally, it was expected that all attention be on the altar.
Now, as an adult, I know He does not ‘reside’ in the house of the church. These "in church" behaviors had a strong impact on my childhood conscience, then it also begs a question: where I am residing now? I no longer have the same modes of dressing or genuflecting. Do I reside within or outside the Church? If I were so respectful in a mere structure of wood with the name of Christ on it, then how much more respectful ought I be IN the living Body of Christ?
The thought is overwhelming. It makes Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians make all kinds of sense: as Christ was bestowed the name “Emmanuel” – God with us – likewise Christ, the 2nd Person of the Trinity, is with me (“Christ in you, the hope of glory, Colossians). If true that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, is with me, and in you and in every other believer, then it stands to reason that we are: 1) one –and the same – a motive for our unity 2) it reinforces my statement that we are “in church” all the time: Christ is in me-and I am in Christ, and we are the Body of Christ.
16 …[I] do not cease to give thanks for you…in my prayers:
17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may
give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,
18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened;
that you may know what is the hope of His calling,
what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power. (Ephesians 1:16-19, New King James Version)
In the next few verses Paul refers to the source and enabling authority for answering this prayer:
All this energy [referring to “mighty power” in NKJV, above] issues from Christ:
God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven,
in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments,
no name and no power exempt from his rule.
And not just for the time being, but forever.
He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything.
At the center of all this, Christ rules the church.
The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church.
The church is Christ's body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.
In chapter one of Ephesians, Paul outlines his primary prayer for the Church of God at Ephesus: that their spiritual understanding is enlightened, so they understand who they are in Christ and all that lies behind the Church: the power of the Risen Christ, Agnus Dei, that they are one in the Holy Spirit.
- Charity Johnson