Thursday, May 28, 2009

How God Sees the Church

That God should have a different perspective on church than we do should not be all that surprising--that we should have a different one than him after he's spelled out his is another thing all together. We get more than a glimpse of how God sees the church in the Seven Letters to the Seven Churches in the Revelation. We can gain insight from other passages of scripture as well. Together they show us that God views the church as the body of Christ and the family of God; that he sees the church locally and collectively, in the micro and in the macrocosm.

Consistently, God sees and deals with the church as one entity in a locality, hence the title of most of the Pauline epistles and the nature of the letters in the Revelation. God sees the church seamless, like Christ's garment, made of individual threads, but bound into a whole without the use of artificial connections. No matter how much we'd like to apply the lessons from the Seven Letters to individual, denominational congregations, it is hard to get past the facts that each locality has but one candlestick, one superintending angel, and was addressed by one letter.

Doubtless, in each of those towns there were many churches meeting in many different houses, but Christ addressed them collectively. It is therefore not truly accurate to see any denominational or individual local church as the proper addressee of any of the biblical letters. It would be better to see each as addressing a city-wide church, a conglomeration of local houses of worship, at least that is how it would have been understood by the original audience. No house of worship is really "the church" anywhere.

If the church actually saw itself the same way Christ does, our identity would not be so pinpointed as to exist without reference to other bodies (and cross-denominationally) in our immediate area. We would not act as if we were islands in the storm, but see that Christ-life, real life, our life together did not end at the walls of our own congregation, as if we were the church in where ever we are. Would there even be enough angels to go around if that was the case for the seven (the entirety) of the church?