Church, I Love You
How do you talk about the church?
Probably similarly to how you think about her.
But how do you then think about her?
A Remarkable Letter
A letter has been saved that was written to a local church, and it starts with: “I really love you”.
And then it continues: “and I am not the only person; everyone who knows the truth loves you”.
A beautiful beginning, is it not?
But where does such certainty come from? It is possible for someone to speak for himself like this. But to write like that on behalf of everyone?
The answer is there: everyone who knows the truth, see who and what the church is.
Or to put it differently: when you have learned to see the church through the eyes of God, then you see who she really is (in truth). She is the choice of the Son, his bride who comes to him.
This was also mentioned in that letter: “you are the elect lady”. Somewhat dignified perhaps, but not to be misunderstood. As a young man chooses his wife out of many others, because he follows the love of his heart.
“You are the one!”
“Because I love you!”
The letter in question is written by John. It is a short letter, for he did not have much to report, it says. And besides, soon he would visit again. But he just had to say this.
Then it was probably just like things are now. Everyone has something to say about the church, nice or ugly things. We also know this from other letters from that time. Differences in doctrine cannot be avoided; the gospel will always be in the line of fire.
This can be difficult and strenuous, but it does not have to disintegrate a congregation. On the contrary, there are proofs aplenty of great growth in times of persecution and struggle.
But something else may be happening as well: a continuously negative approach, a hidden detachment, a mentality where everyone finds themselves, their habits and desires the most important. Then you will get a church where people first and foremost look at the people, then their flaws are enlarged, and others will be blamed for this.
In such a time John had to just quickly write something (2 John 1) to “the elect lady”. A short letter, as if it were mainly about the salutation. Not much news, and yet added to the Bible by God himself.
“All who know the truth love you”. That is a fact. Whoever does not love you, stands outside the truth, the truth which is Jesus Christ.
Learning To Write
I think this includes a lesson on how to write a letter to my church or to my church council?
It often happens that letter writers dive right into the matter at hand, make proposals, raise issues, give criticism, and so on. We are quite used to it, and it does not surprise us.
But exactly as some matters are being looked after, such a letter can come across as rather one-sided. Too one-sided in fact. During the writing of such a letter, the image of whom this is about may disappear. And it should not be like this.
It is not only in 2 John 1 that we find the right tone. From Paul we also get example after example about “how do I write a letter to the bride of Christ”? Take for example Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, where he forcefully reprimands against divisions, adultery, a lack of love, etc. That letter begins with: “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge — even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you — so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Look, this does indeed change the tone of the letter. Not only does the letter reach a higher level, but we also note the thankfulness which is not forgotten in everything which is still missing and lacking in the church.
Can we not ask of each other to begin our letters to church or classis or synod in this way?
Especially those letters which are critical, or which are filled with objections? Criticism must be allowed and can be very edifying. But is that the only thing you can write?
Letters can be so one-sided, and they can be rude, insulting, targeting a person and so on.
Sometimes the sourness drips from the pages. There are writers who do not even notice this anymore in themselves.
It will help all of us when writing whatever letter we have in mind, that we first remind ourselves who it is we are addressing. The elect lady! The bride who will shine, who now already belongs to Christ and partakes in all he is and has. Such a beginning is not only beautiful but also functional, it determines the words you choose for your letter.
Learning To See
It can also be that some letters will then not be written at all. Because you have learned to see things differently.
I know people who really had to get used to different music in the worship service. Not only organ or piano, but also guitar, keyboard, and drum. Can that be done, is that allowed? And then these young people standing on the podium, and even singing in a microphone? The objections appeared out of nowhere. This is understandable when you only look at it from your own traditions.
But this can change when you see the bride of Christ, also in these young people. Then you hear that they stand there singing of him. And you notice they do it from the heart. It is not about the guitar, what could you say about that? Thank God there is a new generation who sings songs of praise and worship! And not only in the worship service, but also throughout the week when they prepare for this. And at other times when there is something to do.
When someone would start his letter with those words of thanks, then perhaps the rest would not be written anymore. Or at least in such a manner that no one is hurt.
Learning To Judge
Another step back; you could save yourself (and others) a lot of irritation. Because you learn to think from the truth and not from yourself. This is how John writes about this: “all who know the truth, love you” (2 John 1:1). That goes deeper and farther than the writing of good letters, it says something about your heart and all the judgments of the heart.
It is remarkable how quickly people come to judge and how often this happens. With everything that is happening in church or in the worship services, there are immediately people who “find” something about it: they find it dumb, wrong, boring, exaggerated, misplaced, too long, too short, nothing for me. Or just the opposite: cool, beautiful, nice, surprising, to be repeated, should be possible, etc.
When I notice that, I want to say: people, stop judging for a second! For when you judge, you are not uninhibited anymore, but right away place yourself above it, putting things in a box. How very sad that is.
For so many beautiful things are happening in church which should first just be observed. Things that should bring you to amazement and admiration. But this is getting too little attention.
Even worse: there are people who, due to the criticism they fear, do not do or dare to do anything anymore. Is that not terrible?
I think it can be rather liberating when you learn to think from the truth. Then you understand right away if something comes from God or not; you recognize it. And when you recognize it, you can deal with it in a relaxed manner. Then everything does not have to go or be as you thought it should. Then it can be there as God provides it.
Learning To Believe
At the core it is about believing. That you look further than your eyes can see. That you realize God is greater than you think. And that Jesus can adorn his bride with jewelry you could not think of. That in trust you leave room for such surprises. When you know and believe Who is in front of you, then you automatically unlearn that you want to control everything.
In Ephesians 3:10 Paul writes about “the manifold wisdom of God”. And God shows all that to each person through you.
How manifold will the bride then be? And how surprising, time and again? You cannot make it up, you cannot understand it, and you definitely cannot make it subject to your own taste and preference.
No, the bride is there to be loved. To see Jesus in her. Then you partake in her joy, in her thankfulness and spontaneous surrender.