BEFORE defining who or what the Church is, the author of this article chooses to delve into the reason(s) for the Church’s being, its existence. The following biblical texts give credence to this line of thought.
“So we, being many, are one body in Christ and everyone member of one another” Romans 12:5. “Now ye are one body of Christ and members in particular” 1 Corinthians 12:27
Secondly, Paul introduces himself as the Prisoner of the Lord, and invites fellow Christians to walk worthy their calling, to be lowly (humble) meek, long suffering, for bearing one another in love, striving to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. He further talks of one body, one spirit and being called into one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of all, who is above all and in all.
In addition, grace is given to everyone, commensurate with the measure of the gift of Christ. When Christ ascended to heaven, he led captivity captive and gave gifts to men. A variety of gifts was given, for example, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. This diversity of gifts is meant to perfect the Saints for the work of the ministry and the edifying of the body of Christ. Ultimately the envisaged end product was unity of the faith, knowledge of the Son of God, production of a perfect Christian, who measured up to the stature of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:1-13.
Principles jumping out of the above quoted texts are; body composed of various organs for divergent purposes yet united, maintenance of a high standard and values and objectives. Humility, patience, upholding unity and peace principles are highlighted as indispensable. The bond of believers being love and peace.
Believers are to be peacemakers, to be hopeful under the direction of one body, one faith, one baptism, one Lord, and one father who is Supreme to all.
Christ’s victory on sin is portrayed, grace is given according to Christ’s generosity. Believers are given gifts, not for personal aggrandisement, but for polishing up the believers in their ministry work.
Back to the definition of the Church, the narrative presented so far, points to the Church, as a body of believers, whose head is Jesus. The Church is to be known for being a united group of people, who love each other and are called out of darkness into God’s marvellous light to attract men to the goodness of salvation in Christ.
Jesus’ last words before ascension, were in the form of a new commandment, namely loving one another. John 13: 34, 35
According to Prof Mathema; Z (2015) members of the Church or the Church exists for “Edificatio Mutua and Correptio Fratena”, these are Latin phrases meaning Mutual Edification and Fraternal Correction. Church members contribute to each other’s growth and correction is done in love. A marriage parallel was also considered in Prof Mathema’s discourse.
The Church is referred to as Christ bride. One of the key purposes for the establishment of a marriage is sexual intimacy. Marrieds engage themselves in romance, mission and vows and these are critical to the survival of the marriage. However, too much of any one of the mentioned acts, would spell doom for the marriage. Romance is for the exhilaration of spouses. The mission of the marriage as well as vows made cannot be sacrificed at the altar of romance. The equation must be maintained, if the marriage is to remain meaningful.
Turning to Christ and His Bride (the Church) relationship, it is imperative for the parties to be closely intimate at the Spiritual and Bible reading levels. A close relationship as that experienced by Enoch and God, which led to Enoch’s translation to heaven without tasting death. The Church is called upon to manage inter and intra personal relationships, based on brotherly love. Mutually edifying each other and correcting each other in love (fraternal correction).
Church members don’t live in “utopia” land, yet they have found ways and means of dealing with disputes. Forgiveness starves off hostility and vice versa. A merry heart, a grudge-free mind has healing properties that surpass medication.
The medical profession now concurs, that a happy individual is likely to be healthier than a person who is begrudging. Forgiveness must be proactive, meaning that the wronged need not wait for the wrongdoer to apologise. For the sake of Christ, who forgave his crucifiers (father forgive them as they don’t know what they are doing). By forging, striving to live a grudge-free life, one is actually doing oneself a double favour, namely spiritual intimacy with God and benefiting form good health properties emanating from a forgiving and peacebuilding disposition. Love is the benchmark in Christian service. Love is defined as:
l The will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth. Scott Peck, p85.
l It is an act of the will that goes with action.
l It is a life principle that calls for conscious choice to help the beloved to be all he/she can be towards his/ her God given potential.
l That is what matters most in the journey.
Put differently — love is a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep respect for yourself and others, of valuing and believing in yourself and others, and helping to achieve the best of which everyone is capable.
Who and what then is the Church? The Church is God’s vehicle for transforming the world. It is both the product of God’s mission and the means for achieving the mission. It is called out to change and transform the world by His grace. People melt to love. The Church is called to be an agent of transformation, if it lives and serves as the Body of Christ.
In the pre-creation era, God remarked, Let us create man in our image for purposes of having dominion over all creation and to procreate. Gen 1:26. Deducing from this text, one concludes that any human being created by and in the likeness of God forms part of God’s Church. Dissociation from the Church, is, therefore, voluntary and not of God’s making.
The Financial Gazette of 11-17/02/2016 carried an article; Where Is The Church? The impression given in this article was that the Church has abdicated its role.
Going by the narrative captured above, the Church is made up of every human being created in the image of God. If the Church is perceived or in real terms has lost its lustre, it is everybody’s duty to prop up each other — to edify one another mutually and fraternally correct each other. We are our brother’s keepers and as such we need each other.
Everybody forms the body of Christ, the Church. We can be different organs but we all contribute to the proper functioning of the body, the Church. It is by choice to opt out of God’s Church. People shall know that you are my disciples if you love one another said our Lord Jesus and Paul’s advice is that Christians must owe no one anything, except the debt of loving one another. What a world would that be, where we wished each other well and lived for one another — the allelon (one anotherness). Heaven would have come down indeed.
●Moses Tsimukeni Mahlangu writes in his own capacity and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org for comments