Can We Love Jesus Without Loving the Church?

I have always been a regular church attender, and am typically involved in one ministry or another. But there have been times when I wondered if being a part of a local church body is really all that important. I never actually stopped attending, but I have wondered at times, “What’s the point?”

However, I recently started reading and studying what the Bible has to say about the church, and am learning about Jesus’ immense and everlasting love for it (Ephesians 5:25, Ephesians 5:29). As a result, I’m beginning to see things a lot differently.

Despite the deep love Jesus proclaimed and showed for His church in Scripture, Christians are leaving it today in record numbers. Many of these people wouldn’t say that they’ve stopped believing in God or that they’ve given up on Jesus. They would probably just say that they’ve become frustrated with the church.  

Maybe they’ve become saddened by the church’s perceived stagnation or it’s unwillingness to change old traditions. Maybe they feel like today’s church is no longer relevant and doesn’t try hard enough to engage with today’s culture. Or on the flip side, maybe they believe the church is trying too hard to fit in with today’s world. Maybe they are disappointed with the hypocrisy and hateful rhetoric spewed by some of its members.

Sadly, I can sympathize with many of these frustrations. The people in the church of Christ often don’t display the loving characteristics of the One they claim to be following. I am certain that Jesus is saddened by the behaviors and attitudes displayed in a lot of today’s churches. But I think Jesus might also be saddened when people give up on the church and abandon it altogether.

Often we hear, “I still love Jesus, but I just don’t want to deal with church anymore.” Perhaps it would be wise to remember that Jesus called the church His bride (Ephesians 5:25-27). Imagine for a moment that someone wanted to be your friend, but wanted nothing to do with your wife. How would you feel? I know I would have a hard time having a relationship with that person. When we say that we want Jesus, but want no part of His church and its people, we are basically doing the same thing to Him.

The church is not a perfect community. I know as well as you do how far from perfection we are. But really, shouldn’t this be expected? The church is made up of a whole bunch of imperfect and sinful people. I once heard someone say, “If you find a perfect church, don’t go there because you’ll ruin it!”

Despite all the imperfections in the church, God is still madly in love with it. So if we truly love God, then we should love His church and be willing to work on the issues it faces. If we see a need, then we should try to meet it. If we see a problem, then we should try to come up with a solution. Too often, church is like so many other things in today’s culture—a place where people are experts at pointing out the problems, but aren’t willing to do anything to help solve them. We expect someone else to fix the problems in church. But we all can, and must, do better!

The Christian church is a vital part of God’s great plan to find and save the lost and to restore this broken world. Yes, He could have done all this without our help. He has all power and authority to do it on His own. But for some reason, God chose to include us. He chose to allow His bride to be a part of His work. He chose to use His church.

God has equipped every member of His church for a specific purpose. Each of us is empowered by the same Holy Spirit to glorify Jesus and make His church loving, beautiful, captivating, intriguing, and inviting. Let’s try to find our place in it, and let’s all do our part!

As someone once said, it’s impossible to love Jesus but hate the church. When we give up on the church, we give up on that which Jesus died for.

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