I realize there is a balance. If our admiration for the church becomes prideful, we can misplace our mission. On the other hand, if we have been delivered from darkness to reign with Christ, we have every reason to be “glad and sincere” (Acts 2:46). When this attitude is present the “favor” of our community toward us doesn’t have to be solicited. The beauty of Christ’s Bride is self-evident and her joy complete.
One way we can praise the church without being boastful is to celebrate the work of grace among its members. Grace presumes need, and in the case of the redeemed, sin. We grieve over the destruction Satan brings into our lives, but we celebrate the power of grace and the strength of community as the Lord works in and through His people to change lives.
Not long ago I was helping a team from our church organize a warehouse full of household goods donated for families in crisis. About mid-morning I encountered a challenge that may seem trivial on the surface, but had the potential to derail my witness. I found a dish that matched a set of old Christmas china my wife and I had been collecting to keep up with our growing family. It was perfect, without chip or blemish! I showed the plate to our team and one member suggested I take it and make a donation to the warehouse ministry. To be honest, I had already considered the possibility, but something was gnawing at my heart. I thought about how I would feel if I had donated a plate to a mission for the poor and later discovered a preacher had purchased it to add to his family’s china collection. Yikes! I could feel the Holy Spirit punching me in the gut. Then I thought about my role as a leader and what my actions might say to those on the team, some of which were new in their walk with the Lord. I also considered the fact that single plate might be a part of a bigger plan God was unfolding in the life of its recipient. Would the picture of a little train running around the base of a Christmas tree on the plate be the one thing to bring joy to a child experiencing an otherwise dismal Christmas Day? Ok, so maybe I was over-analyzing things a bit, but you get the idea. The work of God’s grace in our congregation altered the way I processed my temptation. I wasn’t just a member of a club, and I didn’t have the freedom to do as I pleased as long as no one cared. I was a part of the Bride of Christ, and as such I was engaged in the ongoing process of sanctification with my spiritual brothers and sisters. Instead of feeding my personal ambition, I needed to use the opportunity to remind my church family why we were serving, put the plate back on the shelf and go back to work. I was definitely tempted, experienced a significant moment of weakness, but ultimately found the strength to do the right thing. As a result I could hold my head high and celebrate the redemptive power of grace.
In this way we are able to celebrate the church while admitting our sinful nature and constant need for grace. I love the Lord’s church and praise her because she is filled with people who aren’t afraid to acknowledge temptation and sin, but at the same time do not wish to live in them.