We are easily tempted to complain about others in the church, no matter what church we’re a part of. He’s so foolish, he can’t ever seem to get things right. Why is she so weak? She’s been a Christian so long; why hasn’t she grown? I don’t know why those people even attend our church. No one notices them, they have no friends, they’re so insignificant. And that guy? Well, we know he’s there, but we wish he weren’t. He can’t carry a conversation and is so full of himself. No one even likes him. If only we could purge our church of these people, we’d be so much more attractive to our neighborhood. And if we can’t purge them, then maybe I should go find a different church—one that has more wise people, influential people, somebodies.
If you’ve been in more than one church, you know that going to a different church does not resolve the problem. For God actually delights to choose foolish people over against the wise, weak people over against the strong, insignificant people over the influential, nobodies over against somebodies (1Cor 1.26–28).
Like when he chose you and me.
So we shouldn’t be surprised when we find foolish, weak, insignificant nobodies populating our church. And since Christ loves such people—since Christ loves us—we follow in his steps by loving them as well. And one of the most important ways that we demonstrate our love to them is by regularly and repeatedly proclaiming Christ crucified to them. The gospel is for each other.
A few points of application:
- In informal settings. What do we talk about when we’re with other Christians? The news? Sports? TV and movies? These things are not inherently wrong, and in order for us to know one another, we need to talk about these things. But would an observer say that the gospel—the message of the cross, what we proclaim, Christ crucified—functions as the center of our talk, with all other topics discussed in relation to Christ? Or is the gospel an awkward appendage to our conversations? More often than not, it is the latter. Let us pray that the gospel would become so central to us individually that it becomes central in our conversations with one another.
- In counseling/discipleship. When someone confides in us about a private matter in their life, perhaps a persistent sin pattern or an emotionally troubling circumstance or a difficult decision they must make, what is our response? Often our response is governed by how we view ourselves. If I respond with shock over their sin (“how could a professing Christian ever think/say/do those things?”), I don’t fully grasp the depth of my own sin. It has often been said, “Any sin that any sinner has ever committed, I could commit.” If that is true, and I think it is, then we should be unfazed by another’s confession. Troubled? Quite possibly. Concerned? No doubt. But not shocked. Still, there are many times when someone opens up with me that I don’t know exactly where to go. In those moments I often pray that the Spirit would help, and he reminds me that the gospel is the hope, the very power of God to rescue this friend from whatever it is they’re battling. And so I begin proclaiming the gospel, to them, to me. Sometimes I don’t even know how it applies at first. But as we discuss Christ crucified, the cross sheds its light on the matter, and we can see a way forward.
- In leadership meetings. We often discuss church business without much direct correlation to the gospel. Not that we intentionally deny the gospel in our conversation, but we do not intentionally think through individual issues in light of the cross. What does the gospel have to do with building issues? health insurance? benevolence? purchasing musical instruments? hiring a staff member? Short answer: everything. I think church leaders generally believe this, but honestly we don’t know exactly how the message of the cross relates to individual matters. And since we don’t see the connection, we are fearful to bring up the gospel because we haven’t thought through how it shapes our decision. Let’s not allow our incomplete thoughts—or, worse, our fear of man—keep us from bringing up the question: how does the center of our faith, Christ crucified, shape and inform this issue?
No one bats a thousand, so none of us get it right all the time. But let us pray that the Spirit would grant growth, that we might characteristically proclaim Christ crucified, to ourselves, to our world, and to each other.