Summary: Many people are looking for the perfect church - yet they don’t have a clue where to find it. These three verses from Colossians give us a snapshot of the perfect church - and it might be the church your at.
The Perfect Church
In my time in ministry, I have heard more than once the statement, “If you find the perfect church don’t join it because it will no longer be perfect.” I’m not sure, but I have a suspicion that something was being hinted at in that statement. What do you think?
Really, many of us at times have found ourselves longing to be part of the perfect church ... the church that is just right ... the church that you have always been longing for.
But we have conceded that no such church exists. Our dreams of ever finding the perfect church have crumbled like a paper moon in our hands and left us falling.
But scripture tells us that the perfect church is a reality. Our definition of the perfect church has just been the problem.
How do we usually define the perfect church? Our definitions of the perfect church are dominated by things like a pastor that preaches appealing and practical sermons, worship music that stirs us, presentations that are flawless, programs that address our felt life needs, or a well-kept, finely tuned facility. Ultimately our definition concentrates more on the programs that make the perfect church, rather than the people who make the church perfect.
And since we have erred in defining what the perfect church is, we further err in determining those things that are really important to the life of the church. We get so busy with programs and the plans and the property and the possessions that we forget that the church is really the people.
Open your Bibles to Colossians 3, and as we begin reading at verse 12, we’ll hear what Paul had to say about the reality of the perfect church. I’m reading from the New International Version:
“12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Listen to how the New Living Translation renders those verses:
“12Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony.”
“in perfect harmony” … “in perfect unity” … That is Paul’s assessment of what life in the church ought to be like. It is the place where discordant lives are brought into tune, through relationships with a loving community, resulting in a beautiful harmony.
What is the perfect church? The perfect church is the place where everyone is loved. A loving community is a perfect church, a place where nobody stands alone.
Love … holds Christians together in fellowship under the strain of everyday life. Love checks the selfish, hard tempers, which keep people apart and thus militate against the maturing of good fellowship. Here “perfect harmony” is the full expression of love in the Christian community, devoid of bitter words and angry feelings, and freed from the ugly defects of immorality and dishonesty.
Our hearts were made for community. We hunger for the deep, authentic relationships Jesus had in mind when he prayed that his followers would be one. Yet in many churches, and for many in our church, the connection we crave is lacking. How can this church become a place where nobody stands alone? How do we become the perfect church, a loving community?
It doesn’t happen by simply saying we love one another. As any of you who have suffered through a broken relationship can testify, the words often come easy. The perfect church moves beyond the spoken word.
1) The perfect church displays loving conduct.
Look back at vs. 13 – Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
In this verse, Paul understands there are two ways that a loving community must conduct itself.
First, bear with each other – Make allowances for each other’s faults. In our common language perhaps the best way to translate this phrase is “put up with each other” or “cut each other some slack” – which is being patient, even when it might mean enduring possible difficulty.
“Put up with” catches the sense of an acceptance requiring an effort of will because the actions or attitudes in question are immature and tiresome. Such a positive response is of a piece with the practical wisdom (Rom 12:9-13:10)