Monday, April 20, 2009

The Body of Christ: What a "Beautiful Mess"

When I was in high school, and Christ had begun drawing me back to him from the rebellion I'd been living out for several years, I came across a band called Sixpence None the Richer (best known, perhaps, for their song "Kiss Me"). The album of theirs that I loved most was just close enough to Smashing Pumpkins-style music for me to dig it, while being challenged by the lyrics to look at life more through the lens of faith... a perfect fit for that time in my life.

One of the songs that meant a lot to me at that time was "Within a Room Somewhere". It talks about every breath of life being the potential impetus for us to realize that Christ is there:

Messiah, I know You are there
Within, without me, holding me
Messiah, I know You are there
Catching carrying this beautiful mess
The last line of that chorus fits so well, that Christ catches and carries us, and also gives us a useful description of ourselves. That view of myself, a sinful human, as a "beautiful mess" is a good one, I think. Realizing that as believers, we are beautiful in Christ... and that in our very nature, made in the image of God, we are beautiful... all the while, realizing that we are, each of us, a mess. A sinful, messy, doing-what-we-don't-want-to-do, not-doing-what-we-want-to-do mess.

The Body of Christ can be the same way. It's hard to live in community. To open yourself up authentically, to receive exhortation & correction. To know how to hold fast to what is essential (the Gospel) and offer grace and freedom in non-essentials. It's so tough to interact with others on a deep level and then not feel hurt or wounded when we disagree on things that are significant in our hearts or minds, or when our sin natures become painfully obvious.

Just this week, I've come across three instances of messy, difficult-to-sort Body life. It can be tempting to think we'd just be better off alone.

Lori Chaffer's song "Alone Everybody" sums it up pretty well:
I am happiest when by myself
Nobody’s hurt, nobody’s helped
Like a gun or bullet on a shelf
Alone, everybody’s fine
So I tiptoe around because it’s easier to fake it
Try not to be loud, or emotionally naked
I've been thinking I could get along
I think I’m happy, I think I’m strong
But like my cactus when it’s dry too long
Alone even cacti die
Alone everybody’s fine
Alone everybody lies
Alone everybody cries

Really, it's true. Alone isn't good for anyone. The mess of community, however messy it sometimes gets, is preferable to the mess that happens when we are unrefined, left to ourselves. We are such a beautiful mess when we come together as the Body of Christ.

Alone is not how God meant for human life to be lived. He built community into our make-up... we aren't like many of the animals where we reproduce together but live life mainly alone... He set it up so that marriage is a necessary and right part of overall human life. He separated the people out into people groups with various languages and lands, so that identity and community would be significant in our lives. Christ Himself modeled intensive community life; His first followers walked that same path as the early church. He calls out the Body of Christ to love and honor one another, pursuing unity and peace, so that more people will be drawn to Him.

Though messy & certainly not easy, it *IS* a miracle. In Christ, we have the ability to forgive. We have the ability to live at peace with people that we formerly did not. Even, miraculously, to have unity and fellowship with people that have wounded us in profound ways. As the Body of Christ, we can live in a way that is markedly different from the vengeful, bitter, self-protective, interpersonally-insulated world around us.

I pray for grace to walk in that.

In Christ, we have all we need for godly living... but it requires that we abide. Trust and obey. Love one another deeply. Be at peace with one another. Walk in a manner worthy of the calling. All the things the Word tells us.

Body life as the Church is, really, a beautiful mess.


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