The Terrible Beauty That Is Community

One of the main reasons I was drawn to Mercy Ships was the community living aspect. I love the fellowship it affords… breaking bread together, worship together, struggling together, supporting each other. But we are all human and imperfect and as many know, sharing life together can lead to frustrations, hurts and headaches. And in spite of this some of us still are drawn to this life.

Last week had more downs than ups and as this morning started to look like another down day I randomly thought back to a blog post I did about five years ago and after re-reading it I find the heart of it to be applicable to some of my thoughts about community life at this time and found it was very good to remind myself to look for the beauty when all I see is grey.

The Church Has Pink Nails

Somewhere between the “concert” worship and conversational mile wide sermon I had a shocking thought: “I think I hate the Church.” I replayed in my mind the churches I have seen, the great revivals, the Church before and after Luther’s 95 Theses, the first century Church, and I thought to myself, “She pretty much sickens me.” Allow me a moment of your time to explain myself and what I’ve been processing.

Throughout church history I might venture to say the biggest problem has been that of a collision between Truth and Relevance. The Truth is vital. It is foundational to our churches. Without Truth we would be nothing more than a cult. All to often it is unpopular and uncomfortable but it is always glorious, and its weight is well worth it. Relevance is not bad. In fact it is true that we should always be changing the method of the message and not the other way around. Its not to be the other way around because then the quest to cultural or moral relevance runs the great risk of dampening the light of the Truth.

Since the start of the Church the maddening balancing act of the message and the method has revealed some of her unique beauty marks and at other times created a wart. She is fallen, She is broken, She is flawed, and yes, sometimes She is downright ugly. But she is beautiful. Its a beauty I can’t describe. A beauty I can’t understand. A beauty that draws me in. A beauty I can’t walk away from.

Each Sunday I am drawn back, I crave to see a glimpse of her deep beauty. I hunger for it. But what is the great Beauty? That is what I can’t put my finger on. Its the “Mona Lisa smile” of the Christian faith…what is behind that front? Is it the Father’s free gift, the sacrificial love of the Son, the presence of the Spirit? Is it the fellowship that grows out of believers coming together in His name?

She is complex and crazy, privy to scandal, involved in politics, She is used and abused, battered and broken. But she somehow keeps nourishing us, supporting us. We need her. She is like Lisa in Girl, Interrupted. You watch her fall apart and take others with her, you watch as she destroys lives and causes great pain. But by the end of the movie you are fighting for her to be the woman she is inside, the woman buried under the many hurts. You fight for her to overcome her labels and to be simply Lisa.

Its a beautiful scene at the end, Lisa is lying in restraints at the hospital, Susanna comes in to say goodbye. She pulls out some pink nail polish. As they oddly, tensely say goodbye Susanna paints Lisa’s nails. Something in that act reminds her of her beauty, reminds her that she is a woman and that causes her to hope.

The Church is the bride of Christ. Sadly she may never fully look the part but if you look throughout her expansive history she has, at least, always had pink nails. 

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2 thoughts on “The Terrible Beauty That Is Community

  1. Very thoughtfully written. This was a great read, and you are growing every day in grace and strength, God never gives us more than we can handle, He does, however, stretch us very thin at times. Love you.

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