Sometimes we have to reexamine some of our basic notions about our spiritual life so we can be sure we are “on the right page.” In today’s column, I want to explore the role of the Church.
Author and pastor, Dr. Paul David Tripp says, “The church is not a theological classroom. It is a conversion, confession, repentance, reconciliation, forgiveness and sanctification center, where flawed people place their faith in Christ, gather to know and love him better, and learn to love others as he designed.”
I like his definition because he brings out the important elements of our Christian life. He emphasizes “conversion,” the willingness to change our lives and become our best selves. Our “confession” is the ability to admit we have made mistakes and are willing to learn from them. “Reconciliation” is our willingness to put our differences aside and strive to live as members of God’s family with Jesus as our brother.
“Forgiveness” is our willingness to let go of our past hurts as we pray constantly in the Lord’s Prayer. We are members of Christ’s Church because we admit we are “flawed people” who need the power of God in our lives. We gather on the Lord’s Day to “know and love Jesus better.” We listen to God’s words and strive to make them part of our lives.
Lastly, the church should be the place where we learn to love as Jesus loved. His love was unconditional. It is based on the way God loves. It’s a difficult love but it’s a liberating love. We are to love everyone, even our enemies. If we can do this, there will be no hate in us. This love is not based on emotions. It’s wanting what is best for the other.
The late Anglican priest, Rev. John R. Stott reminded us, “It is impossible to be truly converted to God without being thereby converted to our neighbor.”
Archbishop Oscar Romero said, “The church must suffer for speaking the truth, for pointing out sin, for uprooting sin. No one wants to have a sore spot touched, and therefore a society with so many sores twitches when someone has the courage to touch it and say, ‘You have to treat that. You have to get rid of that. Believe in Christ. Be converted.’”
One role of the church is to point out the abuses that exist in society. Many evils exist: racism, sexism, materialism, consumerism, child abuse, human trafficking, avarice and greed, growing affluence of the rich and decline of the middle class, alienation, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic abuse, hate crimes, gun violence, the cult of celebrity, and malnutrition of the spirit.
Our market economy has held up the view that some human beings are of less value than others. We need to learn to live together and share the benefits of our affluence, creating a society in which all are valued and none are expendable. We need to address all these evils.
Billy Graham once said, “True conversion will involve the mind, the affection, and the will. There have been thousands of people who have been intellectually converted to Christ, but they have never been really converted to him. Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion. It’s a daily process by which you grow to be ever more like Christ.”
Everyone needs to be converted. No one is perfect; no one is totally Christ-like. Conversion is a life long process that takes a lot of prayer, refection and honestly with ourselves and with our God. We have to read spiritual literature constantly and meditate on the gospels and make them part of our lives. Being true to the gospel is the heart of conversion.
Conversion for some might be a Damascus Road experience. For most of us, it’s a gradual realization of what it means to be a member of God’s family, the Church.