Monday, October 08, 2007

The Wounded Church

This post stemmed from Ron Wofford's outstanding commentary on WordShare regarding "The abomination we never preach about". This is not to take anything from him or his words; they are truly worth reading...

I have watched this forum for a couple weeks now (having been gone for some time), and the fallout of the advertising resolution has left me wondering if the passing of this resolution really added any damage to a body that was obviously already fractured and wounded.
Isa 1:5-6 "...the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. 6 From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment."

I preached a message from this text some time back entitled The Wounded Church; this passage in Isaiah is, sadly, directed at Israel, God's own chosen, yet from His observation of them, they were filled with brokenness, wounds, injuries of all sorts. The gist of the message God had lain on my heart for that particular time: it is small wonder we are seeing such limited power in our churches now, because a body that is wounded, full of injuries, soreness, and putrefaction can scarcely be expected to operate in a strong, healthy manner.

I suppose it would be vain for me to attempt to share online what I felt so powerfully in that particular service, but let me at least share a handful of what the Spirit gave me on that weekend:

"Wounds" refer to an injury that severs, such as a deep cut from a sword or a knife; the only way a "wound" can heal is if it is wrapped tightly ("bound up") and the flesh begins to heal itself. This is much the same as our modern-day "stitches"; they do not actually heal the wound, but merely serve to bring the divided parts back together so that the body---and the blood flowing through it---will regenerate and heal itself.

"Bruises" refers to an injury beneath the surface. This is an injury that may never break the skin, but is a result of a direct (or indirect) blow that damages blood vessels and tissue underneath. The result is a mottled, discolored patch on the surface that is caused by a blood clot inside. While a bruise, at first glance, may seem to be more of a nuisance than a bona-fide "injury", the fact remains that the hurt is very real. Not only that, but bruises often take far longer to heal because they are so often overlooked or ignored. However, anyone who has ever experienced the pain of a deep bruising can testify that all it takes is an inadvertent bump from someone to bring the throbbing pain back to reality. An anointing of oil applied directly to the bruised area was used to restore blood flow to the clotted area, as well as to relieve the pain.

"Putrefying sores" are open injuries that have been left untreated. Today we would refer to these as gangrenous, or rotting. The only way to treat these was with direct cleansing, usually a very painful process that removed the dead or dying surface tissue, in order to allow new tissue underneath to grow and restore itself.

I suffered an injury during my time in Desert Storm, and as a result, every morning for two weeks, I had to allow the medics to scrub---with a stiff, unyielding brush---that open wound before they would apply the ointment and wrap it tightly to protect it against the grit, sand, and other contamiants of the atmosphere. I am not ashamed to say that I sat in that metal chair every morning with tears silently running down my face; the medic was always apologetic, yet he and I both understood that, without the scrubbing, without the removal of the previous day's scabbing and congestion, the underlying new flesh would be unable to breath, to grow, to heal.

The wounds that have afflicted our movement are not the result of the passing of one particular issue. If anything, that particular decision only served to jar the injuries that have been underlying for some time. The pain some have felt, as a result of seeing others walk away from certain truths or standards, has long been throbbing within, yet these hurts have gone unnoticed and/or unannounced, perhaps because---as with any physical bruise---it seemed like it would heal itself if just given time.

It has not.

If anything, the wounded body, which is the UPCI, has been allowed to remain fractured, broken, hurting. It is as if we choose to be satisfied with a limited amount of strength and power, rather than to take the necessary steps for healing to occur. Such steps require pain and sacrifice which we count as unneccesary for us to continue our supposed mission.

Am I saying that one side should concede to the other? That one opinion is right, and another wrong? That one should apologize for the division, and the other should feel smugly justified?

Absolutely not.

This body did not wound itself; we are a part of the Body of Christ, and God is not into self-mutilation. The wounds have been the result of a calculated attack by an enemy that is insidious, hateful, and ruthless in its onslaught against the Church. Yet, instead of recognizing the enemy, and joining forces to combat his assault, we have instead chosen to turn against each other, allowing the wounds to further decay, hurt, and degenerate. As a result, we further weaken the Body, which now causes us to be satisfied with "good church" instead of "apostolic power".

There needs to be a prayer among us, a prayer for healing within the body. I cannot---and will not---say that one "side" is right, and the other "side" is wrong; we are brethren, joined to one Body, united by the blood of Jesus Christ, yet that blood flow seems to have been stymied, and the healing process is slowing to a stop. And until the body is allowed to come together and be united in bonds of strength and healing, I fear that we will never truly see a demonstration of what God can actually do with a sound, strong, body that is whole.

I do not believe the UPCI is the Body of Christ; I do believe that it is a part of that Body. And if there are those who feel so strongly against a particular issue---whether it be advertising on television, or something else entirely---that they feel the need to withdraw from one particular organization, I choose to remain in fellowship with them, and to allow them to remain in fellowship with me (hoping they choose to do so) that the Body---as a whole---will be strengthened by our unity, and not weakened by name-calling, side-choosing, or misunderstood motives.

Despite the doomsday prophets saying that modern society is too far gone, too decadent, too filthy to ever experience an apostolic revival, I believe that America can---and will---be turned upside down by a Church that is strong in its beliefs, sound in its doctrine, and unified in its vision to reach the lost.

We believe God can heal our bodies; is it time, once again, for the cry to be "Physician, heal thyself" ?