Perhaps one of the greatest problems in the Church is that we can't get along with each other. In many cases, Christians get so tired of all the flaws of other Christians and the church, whether their local church or the global church, that they refuse to go back into one. They cut themselves off from the One whom Christ calls His beloved. The demons in C.S. Lewis's book "The Screwtape Letters" knew all about this tendency in our human nature.
And their observations are stunning.
In Chapter 2, the elder demon is angered to find that the human target of his clumsy nephew has become a Christian. Without hesitation, the elder demon moves quickly to advise the young demon on how to pull the man back into Satan's household. How? By repulsing the man with the flaws of other Christians:
"One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread but through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans. All your patient sees is the half-finished, sham Gothic erection on the new building estate. When he goes inside, he sees the local grocer with rather an oily expression on his face bustling up to offer him one shiny little book containing a liturgy which neither of them understands, and one shabby little book containing corrupt texts of a number of religious lyrics, mostly bad, and in very small print."
Lewis draws two pictures here:
1) the triumphant Church that Christ has labored to build day after day, year after year, for two thousands years since He rose from the dead
and 2) the unattractive, flawed, surface image of the Church, which finds its root in its most basic element: other human beings.
On the surface, the Church is full of unpolished, imperfect people who gather in imperfect church buildings and are not talented in running perfect services that perfectly edify everyone in the room in a perfect way.
Yet, this imperfect day-to-day, mundane, unattractive Church is the foundry where Christ does His most precious work. It is the quarry where He tirelessly mines and shapes His living stones for His Father's temple.
That glorious triumphant Church does indeed exist in every individual Christian in a miniature form -- like a miniaturized scale model of New York City in a snow globe.
But we have to look hard for it -- in others, yes, but also in ourselves. We have to have eyes of the Holy Spirit, not eyes of the flesh. We have to see other people with heavenly thinking, not earthly thinking.
If we see as Jesus sees, we will see the breathtaking sparkle and awe-inspiring glory of His Bride twinkling in the eyes of every genuine Christian who carries the Spirit of Christ within his or her heart.
If we have this vision, stabs of joy will puncture our day-to-day lives on a more consistent basis -- even when we're knee-deep in sorrow and muck -- because we will be seeing Heaven's diamonds hidden and shimmering beneath all the grime of this world.
Lord, give us eyes to see that beauty in each other instead of eyes of criticism, disrespect, and consumer-minded thinking as if the Body of Christ were a consumer good that we could rate on Yelp.