4 WAYS PAUL ENCOURAGES US TO LOVE THE CHURCH (EVEN WHEN IT’S HARD) by Megan Hill for Core Christianity
Beauty on the Inside
Around the corner from where I live, a house is for sale. In bold green letters, the lawn sign reads: “I’m Gorgeous Inside!”
The message is surprising. From the street, the house is thoroughly ordinary, even run-down. It’s a seventies-era raised ranch with dingy white vinyl siding and a location on a busy road. The bushes are too big, the windows are too small, and the backyard is non-existent.
But the sign encourages me to believe there is something more beautiful—and more valuable—about this seemingly ho-hum house than I can appreciate from the curb.
The local church is a little like that house. At first glance, “the house of God” (Heb. 10:21) is unremarkable: a regular gathering of ordinary people committed to a largely invisible mission. We are young and old, male and female, single and married, unemployed and overworked. None of us is much to look at. We sing slightly off-key, and we can’t always clearly articulate the faith we profess. Following worship, bad coffee and awkward moments are served at plastic tables in a damp basement.
But the church has more beauty—and more value—than we can see with physical eyes. Like the Old Testament tabernacle that was covered on the outside with ram’s skins and goat hair but ornamented inside with gold and silver, the ordinary-looking church is actually much more than it seems.
A Complicated Church Story
In the New Testament, many of the testimonies to the church’s worth and intrinsic loveliness come from the writings of the apostle Paul. This is surprising, too.
If you think about it, Paul had a very complicated church story. He was a religious kid, but rather than growing up into love for God’s people he worked against them (Phil. 3:5–6). He hated the church, celebrated the death of her first martyr, and used all his energies to strike down Christ’s beloved people wherever he could find them (Acts 7:58; Acts 8:1, 3; Acts 9:1–2). Then, on his way to persecute the church, Christ appeared to him, and the direction of his life forever changed. Overnight, the church’s enemy became the church’s friend (Acts 9:1–22).