By Not Known
The ‘Church’ can be variously defined. One such description is found in Exodus 19:5-6 – “Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” What do we make of this definition?
The institutional monasteries of the early Christian Church built high walls around the inhabitants to separate the “sacred” inside from the “secular” outside. Contacts between the nuns and monks inside with the people outside were strictly regulated so that the “worldly” might not contaminate the “holy”. Entering a monastic order required a disciplined process of “self-denial” and even painful “self-flagellation” in some cases. All these stemmed from a high desire to be holy as God is holy. While this is spiritually noble, it is also flawed on various grounds.
Firstly, Jesus’ prayerful desire for His disciples then and now is that they should remain in the world, and yet not to be of the world (Jn 17:14-15). They are to seek God’s protection from the evil one, and be sanctified by His truth – the word of God. High walls may keep out the restlessness of the world, but they cannot suppress the restlessness of sinful nature. Only God’s word and Spirit can transform and fortify us from unholy influences.
Secondly, 1 John 2:15-17 exhorts believers not to love the world. A closer examination suggests that the world is not ‘outside’ but ‘inside’ us – “cravings”, “lust”, “boasting”. Without accountability to the critical eyes of the watching world, those high walls have kept in many dark secret sins.
Thirdly, 2 Timothy 3:5 warns believers of maintaining a form of religious piety without true spiritual power that transforms us towards godliness. It is easy for the Church past and present to be an expert schoolhouse for inculcating religious rites and practices. But until the high walls of sin and pride are invaded by God’s truth, we remained “good for nothing” in the church.
Today, Christians can continue to stay apart from the world behind high walls of religious institutions, and holier-than-thou attitudes towards unbelievers. Or we can come out of our religious rabbit holes to engage the world with the Gospel through our cross-bearing lives. As forgiven sinners, we are “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God…” (1 Peter 2:9). But we are still being sanctified and that means we are still not free from the presence of sin that can mess us up. We are a “royal mess”. But God’s grace and mercy remained with His Church in Christ. Therefore, let us engage the world not out of our false sense of perfection. Rather, let us do so out of our weaknesses so that we may point them to “the author and perfector of our faith” – Jesus the Christ (Heb 12:2).