Every family has some level of dysfunction. A movie that I grew up watching every year at Thanksgiving is called Home for the Holidays. It's a comedy about a family with grown kids who all come home for Thanksgiving. The family consists of two aging parents who are stuck in their ways and are a bit naive about the life realities their kids are facing.
Their eldest daughter is a single mom who has bounced from job to job never able to establish herself or live up to her full potential. The middle daughter is "Mrs. Perfect" who appears to have it all together, but is secretly miserable and hates her life. The youngest son is openly gay to everyone in his life, except his parents. He's been keeping it a secret for years.
The movie focuses on the tension and anxiety the three kids experience when they come home for Thanksgiving. All in all, no one in the family gets along, especially the kids, and the holiday brings out the worst in them.
The climactic scene is the family meal. They all sit down to eat. There is a beautiful spread of food on the table, but as soon as the patriarch says the prayer the meal goes downhill, fast and hard. People start arguing and fighting. They throw food at each other across the table. They expose each other's secrets and drag each other's skeletons out of the closet. The meal ends with people walking away from the table to have their own Thanksgiving dinners in separate parts of the house.
They have truckloads of dysfunction in their family. But the overarching message of the movie is, "Like it or not; we're family. This is all we've got."
The same is true for the church. In my last post, I talked about how the church is a family. But as a family, we have our fair share of dysfunction. This is nothing new to the church. Just read Paul's letter to the Corinthians. They certainly had their fair share of issues. They ranged from cliques, believers filing lawsuits against other believers, incest and everything in between. They were a mess.
What I find interesting about Paul's letters to this church, is that there's never a sense of him giving up on this church. He never seems to throw in the towel on them. And it's in his first letter to this church that we have his classic passage on love.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Cor. 13:4-8)
I find that last part to be the most challenging and convicting.
Love always hopes and always perseveres.
Essentially, he's saying love doesn't quit. It doesn't walk away. It doesn't throw in the towel, or throw up its hands and say, "I'm done."
I admit, there are times I've contemplated quitting the church. I've seen and experienced my fair share of dysfunction. But at the end of the day, I always come back to the reality that Jesus hasn't quit on me. While he has every reason to, he doesn't. Paul's description of love is the exact description of Jesus’ pursuit of me, as well as the church.
Jesus hasn't given up on the church, so why would I?
Even though we may find ourselves walking away from the table while trying to get as far away from each other as possible, eating in our own corners of the house, "We're family. Whether we like it or not, this is all we've got."
So, if you're in a season of contemplating leaving the church, my encouragement to you is to wait. Give it time. Ask God to show you how he sees the church before you jump ship. You might be surprised at what he shows you.