The Bible tells us that we are the body of Christ. Casting Crowns sang a popular song about such several years ago, one that went wildly popular on the contemporary Christian charts. And as I've talked about our physical bodies (in particular, mine but I am hoping you thought also of yours), strengths and failings and limitations, I think it's important that we look at another body that has failed. His.
The aforementioned song shared the lyrics, "If we are the body, why aren't His arms reaching? Why aren't His hands healing? Why aren't His words teaching? And if we are the body, why aren't His feet going? Why is His love not showing them there is a way?"
Christ's body - His church - has been broken for so long that there are people out there struggling to trust it, as we would struggle to trust any body this infected. We've seen it in the abuse scandals in the Catholic branch of our body, but the truth is that there are a billion less-publicized atrocities happening in our churches. Foregoing forgiveness. Guarding grace. Mocking mercy. Lacking love.
It's not just people walking in our doors and back out again; some of those hardest hit by the failing of His body are the same ones who sit in our pews (or pick-your-church's-favorite-color interlocking chairs) faithfully, looking for a God who says He is in His people in the people who declare they are in Him and winding up confused and aching.
Like anyone pushing their own body to find its strength, these people are pushing our congregations but finding we're not strong enough. We're failing them; and as such, we are failing Him.
I don't say that to condemn, necessarily. There are a number of reasons we're finding it hard to be His church. Largely, we're fighting both a preconceived notion and some extremely bad press. These are significant obstacles. The bad press, we've all seen. It's the priest sexual abuse scandal. It's the protests of soldier funerals. It's the little boy singing an anti-gay song from the stage. It's the wedding turned away for race, the union rejected for interracialness. In memory from when I was growing up not even in the church, it's the bombings of abortion clinics in the name of preserving life. It's these grand pronouncements to the world-at-large that we're a body of hypocrites, or often worse.
The preconceived notions are also killing us. It's tough to bring Jesus into anything without also introducing awkwardness. I once heard someone say that even people who love Jesus cringe a little when you start to talk about Him. And I laughed (and am still laughing) because it's absolutely true. He's got this stigma that isn't really about Him; it's about the way we've used Him over the past two thousand years as kind of a go-to and a feel-good and a drive-home: we revert to Him when we don't know what else to say even though we've not got any conviction to our words, we use His name to sounds more holy than we actually are (how many celebrities who have thanked Jesus on stage have actually thanked Him in more than public words), and we use Him to condemn whatever we don't like and convince people that they're misguided or simply wrong. It's sad to say, but we've lost our authenticity behind this man Jesus, and I think that as soon as we bring Him up, we shut a little bit of our audience off.
Then how are we supposed to be the body? How are we supposed to break through? How are we to respond to those that are seeking Him and pushing us and heartbroken that we're not proven strong enough?
I think we're already on part of the right track. We're already hypocrites; we just have to embrace that and spin it a little. Admit to what we are - imperfect people - and stop pretending that His body isn't broken. Two thousand years ago, a spear ripped Him open and His body has been broken ever since. We needn't be ashamed of that. But what we need to do is not live lives hypocritical to our faith but instead live faith hypocritical to our lives.
Own up to what we're not and point to what He is...because really, that's all anyone's ever been looking for - not a perfect God but to be perfected in God. Our world is looking for a God that knows where they are. Where we are. And doesn't make all things perfect, but makes all things new. Makes all things mercy, forgiveness, and grace. Makes all things love.
Through His body - imperfect arms reaching, imperfect hands healing, imperfect words teaching. His body - imperfect feet going. Imperfect love showing them there is a way. Jesus is the Way.