136) Called to Love the Whore

THE CHURCH NEEDS GRACE, TOO

By Karen S. Prior, August 22, 2013,

posted on Her.menuetics ( http://www.Christianitytoday.com )

     I’ve talked to a lot of young (and not so young) Christians about their disappointment in the church.  Many have been hurt by the church.  Many more hurt for others who have borne the brunt of the church’s injustices and failures.

     Some of those I’ve talked to have been subject to criticism or suspicion because they have loved art, or music, or words, or peace, or people that the church has rejected or merely overlooked.

     They have felt compassion for the outsiders spurned by the church.

     They have studied history and are rightly angry over the racism of the church.

     They have witnessed the present and are bewildered by the continued marginalization of some by the church.

     They say the church is too shallow, caught up in outward trappings which sacrifice the substance of the gospel.

     They have found the church too unwelcoming of hard questions, expressions of doubt, and spiritual struggles.

     They have heard the call for war made in the name of the church.

     They have seen the lure of money play out in the church.

   They are disappointed that the church has not done what Jesus refused to do: overturn the prevailing political system and replace it with one built on Christian ideals.

     They have seen co-workers disrespected and treated rudely by people who then turn around and pray over their meals.

     They have seen– or been– the fallen woman (although not likely, inexplicably, the fallen man) treated not like a beloved sister but like a cup full of spit.

     If only the church would see such as these with the eyes of Christ, they say.

     And I say, in return, emphatically, Yes.  If only we could see all with the eyes of Christ.

     Yet, I want to say, gently or perhaps not-so-gently:  That way you want the church to love those you love?  Unconditionally, enthusiastically, and compassionately?  That’s how you are called to love the church, too.

     That forbearance, that tolerance, that grace, you extend so generously and rightly to the lost and the disobedient?  That’s what you are called to offer to the church.

     To those who say that the church is too petty and political, too corporate-minded and culturally accommodating, I say, yes, it’s true.  Indeed, the wounds wrought by the church are fresh every morning.

     The church is like that unfaithful woman God commanded the prophet Hosea to marry and have children with.  The church is like that same errant woman God later commanded Hosea to seek and bring home, her and her children by other lovers.  The church is like that unlovable woman God commanded Hosea to love.  Yes, the church is like the prostitute Gomer: wayward and compromising, unfaithful to her promises, unlovable…  She’s a whore.

     Love her.

—————————————-

     Devout Roman Catholic author Flannery O’Connor once said that most of us probably suffer more from the church than for it.  Anyone who has spent much time in or around the church could, like Karen Prior, make their own list of hurts suffered at the hands of good church people; their own criticisms of the church’s many failures.  At the same time, anyone who has been a part of the church can no doubt remember times they themselves have hurt, failed, or disappointed others in the church.  We have all, in our churches, been wounded and we have all done some wounding.  That is what happens whenever sinful human beings get together for anything.  Yet, Jesus tells us to be merciful and to love others, even our enemies.  Why would we want to extend such grace to everyone and everything except the church, which is made up of our sisters and brothers in Christ?  

****************************************

Hosea 1:2-3  —  When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.”  So he married Gomer, daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

Hosea 3:1  —  The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress.  Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods…

Hosea 4:1  —  Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites, because the Lord has a charge to bring against you who live in the land:  “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land.

****************************************

Most gracious Father,we humbly beseech thee for thy Holy Church.

Fill it with all truth; in all truth with all peace.
Where it is corrupt, purify it;
Where it is in error, direct it;
Where anything is amiss, reform it;
Where it is right, strengthen and confirm it;
Where it is in want, provide for it;
Where it is divided and rent asunder, reunite it.

   For the sake of Jesus Christ, your Son our Savior.  Amen.    

–Archbishop William Laud

 ——————————————————–

 O Lord, we beseech thee to maintain thy Church in truth and patience;

That her pastors may be faithful,
Her flock loyal,
Her camp united,
Her lamp burning and shining;
And as thy Son Jesus Christ hath given so great a price for us,
Let us not count it a hard thing to give up all for him,
And to spend and be spent for the souls he hath redeemed;
Who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost,
Now and for evermore.  Amen.                         —Percy Dearmer