As a preacher who served three growing congregations in his lifetime, my father witnessed the church at her best and her worst. He walked with friends who would have literally given their lives for him, and antagonists who had a knack for finding his faults. Ironically, the antagonists were often those my father had helped deliver from the brink of moral collapse, but feeling scorned because he wasn’t comfortable putting them in positions of leadership they challenged his authority at every turn. I only discovered this dynamic years later, which brings me to three important lessons my father taught me when it comes to respecting Christ’s Bride at home.
First, my father continually reaffirmed our mission as Christians. It was impossible for him to see himself apart from the church, not just for theological reasons, but also because he owed his very life to some church members who reached out to him as a teen and led him to faith. In addition, since my father didn’t grow up in the church, he was more concerned about bringing his family members to Christ than he was demanding membership privileges.
My father reminded us to “remember why were in this” and when people disappointed him he tried his best to respond with compassion. Maybe I should clarify that my father’s compassion sometimes involved strongly confronting people with the truth and holding them accountable. But he always held out hope the grace of God would change their hearts, and he never lost sight of his calling as Christ’s ambassador, whether he was enduring the barbs of an antagonists or diving into a mess with an unbeliever.
I am convinced one of the most common mistakes we make when it comes to defining the church in our homes is to institutionalize our verbiage by referring to “those people” or “that church”. Once we forget we are the church, and as such are one in faith and purpose, we start to see Christ’s Bride as a thing, which makes it easier to hurt her.