It is fashionable in our age to criticize the Church, but what does the Lord of the Church have to say about his own?
“Who is this who looks down like the dawn, beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army with banners?”[i]
Who is the Accuser who would say otherwise?
We who are the Church, the Body of Christ, are tempted to accept the Devil’s assessment of the Church and sometimes have been led with a ring through our nose into an attack on ourselves. Immediately comes to mind the accusation that the Church is the only army that shoots its wounded. Oh, really?
That accidentally acknowledges that the Church is an army on the front line of a battle. The world does not take that seriously. It would never do to admit that the Church is involved in the global warfare between good and evil. That is so much out of favour that in some places, those called by the name of Christ, won’t even sing Onward Christian Soldiers.
What must be considered is that the world is in the Church and the Church like any human organization has within it people of divided loyalties. The Accuser holds up the shining mirror of the Church in the radiant glory yet to come and says, “See! You are hypocrites; you do not live up to your image.” Of course not! The image is for the future, it is the wrong image and the Enemy would sell us a subtle deception.
What is the correct image? We are not yet the glorified Church, but we are a Church in transition; an imperfect Church made up of imperfect people. Once we were lost, but now we are found. We are a communion of sinners in the process of transformation. We are a blood washed band on a pilgrimage to the Promised Land. That is what so enrages the Devil.
Are people wounded by the Church? Yes, insofar as the world is in the Church, and the Church is in the world. There are tremendous flaws within the Church because of the humanity of the Church.
One of the reasons the world hates the Church is because in the Church the world sees its own mirror image, and more than that, it sees its mirror image in the process of redemption. The world is threatened by the demonstration in the Church that change is possible, that salvation and transformation can be seen in the ongoing salvation history of the Church and its individual people.
It is the image of a glorious Church in transformation from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Light, and in fury the Enemy cries out, “How dare you say that salvation and change is possible?” From his perspective that wrecks all! The Church in this world, already beginning to reflect the glory of God, is a serious affront to the world, the flesh, and the Devil; because it is true that even as the Church beholds the Light it is in the process of being transformed into Light.
The vision is for the future, but it is already in process now. Therefore the Devil cannot stand it.
And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."[ii]