Monday, May 27, 2013

Loving the Hard-to-Love Church

I am currently reading, among other things, John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. I am in the beginning of book 4 where Calvin teaches concerning the church. It is a wonderful book, and in one section Calvin makes a helpful point about patience with erring brothers and churches which I hadn't thought of before:
"They exclaim that it is impossible to tolerate the vice which everywhere stalks abroad like a pestilence. What if the apostle’s sentiment applies here also? Among the Corinthians it was not a few that erred, but almost the whole body had become tainted; there was not one species of sin merely, but a multitude, and those not trivial errors, but some of them execrable crimes. There was not only corruption in manners, but also in doctrine. What course was taken by the holy apostle, in other words, by the organ of the heavenly Spirit, by whose testimony the Church stands and falls? Does he seek separation from them? Does he discard them from the kingdom of Christ? Does he strike them with the thunder of a final anathema? He not only does none of these things, but he acknowledges and heralds them as a Church of Christ, and a society of saints. If the Church remains among the Corinthians, where envyings, divisions, and contentions rage; where quarrels, lawsuits, and avarice prevail; where a crime, which even the Gentiles would execrate, is openly approved; where the name of Paul, whom they ought to have honoured as a father, is petulantly assailed; where some hold the resurrection of the dead in derision, though with it the whole gospel must fall; where the gifts of God are made subservient to ambition, not to charity; where many things are done neither decently nor in order: If there the Church still remains, simply because the ministration of word and sacrament is not rejected, who will presume to deny the title of church to those to whom a tenth part of these crimes cannot be imputed? How, I ask, would those who act so morosely against present churches have acted to the Galatians, who had done all but abandon the gospel (Gal. 1:6), and yet among them the same apostle found churches?"
May we have the patience of Paul to work with erring Christian churches, speaking the truth in love, hoping all things in the process (1 Cor. 13:7). May we remember that no church will be perfect, but that all churches will require love and patience. Would you have remained at the church at Corinth?


Unknown said...

Wow, this is an amazing passage, and much food for thought! Thank you for sharing!

Anonymous said...

The fact that there are so very, very many brothers and sisters in Christ who act sinfully and think erroneously, even quite erroneously at times, but are still brethren, is something that I have been learning over the past several years. It truly does magnify the graciousness of our God--as well as the compassion and love that we, as Christ's, are to demonstrate. It often reminds me of what the Apostle Peter said, "we hope to be saved in the same manner as they."

But I can't answer the question on whether or not I would have stayed at the church at Corinth--I truly don't know.