Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Church as Counter-Cultural

“What the world needs now, is love, sweet love.” The Carpenters sing these words in a society torn by anger, fear and selfishness. “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun”[1]. As the world was evil, the world is evil and the world will continue as evil. “Oh, wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”[2]

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”[3] We are all wicked. None seeks God. None draws near to him. We are evil in our very being. God spoke saying, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”[4] The words cause our hearts to scream out, “Certainly I am not evil! Certainly I am not corrupted! Yes, I can see the darkness of others. I see their worthless schemes. But not I, I am not corrupt! Sure, I make mistakes, but I am a good person! I should not be punished!” And yet, we hear the Spirit testify to us that we are evil, that we need help. Denial wraps us like a blanket, as though lies can clothe darkness with light. “Oh, wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”[5] The cold grips of death grab us like chains, in the prison of our misery.

“What the world needs now, is love, sweet love.”[6]

In the deep darkness, that covers so completely that the hand can not be seen an inch from the face, a light suddenly pierces. A light so bright, that pain grips the eyes, they shut, teeth clench, the head jerks away, as arms instinctively rise to cover the face. What is it? Who can it be?!?!

A voice speaks, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”[7]

Can it be? Is it true? Are we to be freed from our prison of misery? Will chains which have held us here so tightly be lifted, fall off? “Oh, wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? [Pause] Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”[8]

The Bride of Christ has been freed! Liberated from the prison we made with our own hands of death. “For by the grace of God we have been saved, and this is not of our own righteousness, not of our own deeds, but is the gift of God, that none should boast.”[9]

And now, those who have accepted this gift, who have surrendered their destructive control to God through Christ, are redeemed. They no longer sit alone, but stand together, as one Bride, in one Spirit, unified, in fellowship, in community, as they were designed to be, one holy people.

This is radical. This is unusual. They stood as wicked, now stand as righteous, clothed no longer in lies, but in Christ’s own righteousness. They, like their bridegroom, lay down their collective life for others. But why? They are motivated by love. The love God lavished on them, they now lavish on those who hate them. Returning beatings with kisses. Returning cursing with blessing.

Indeed the Bride is counter-cultural, for where the culture seeks pain, suffering, selfishness; the Church seeks reconciliation, joy, selflessness. Where the culture sees worthless interruptions, the Church sees divine appointments. Where the culture sees unexpected children as a hindrance to careers, success, money and power, the Bride sees these children as a blessing, demonstrating love by laying down careers, success, money, power, even ministry.

The Bride sees through new eyes, eyes she was given by her Bridegroom, God, the true truth. The culture is blinded, snickering as her as though she cannot see the truth! As though she is foolish for loving! Her love may cost her, this she knows, for she has suffered for her love and will again. She chooses the better path, the one of costly love, following her Bridegroom to joy and happiness.

[1] Ecclesiastes 1:9
[2] Romans 7:24
[3] Romans 3:23
[4] Jeremiah 17:9
[5] Romans 7:24
[6] The Carpenters, “What the World Needs Now”
[7] Luke 2:10-11
[8] Romans 7:24-25a
[9] Ephesians 2:8-9


Andi said...
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dumples said...

these comments are LAME! i'll fix them soon.

Kate McDonald said... is the wedding planning coming, friend? guess what? we are DUE (as in having a baby) 2 days after you tie the knot! *grin* fun season of life we are in, huh?