Spoiler alert: No, you can’t love Jesus and not the Church.
It’s a popular pursuit, though, and I can understand it, to an extent.
Jesus is radically inclusive and some churches are radically exclusive, painting stark, impossibly narrow lines of faith that are only big enough to include their particular tribe. According to them, to truly belong to Jesus you must look, think, and act just like them.
Jesus is the complete embodiment of truth but some churches are incredibly misleading. Whether by false teaching or false living, the Church is not perfect. But Jesus is. And that’s the issue. You make a mistake if you expect the Church to be something (perfect) that Jesus (who’s actually perfect) never expected it to be.
Saying you love Jesus but not the church is like saying you love one person of a married couple but don’t really care for their spouse. You might even say you hate their spouse.
Maybe their spouse did something hurtful to you at one point. Maybe you didn’t have the most welcoming experience with their spouse.
No matter the reason, you’re only getting so far in a friendship if you don’t like the person your “friend” is married to…BECAUSE they are crazy about their spouse.
Likewise, you can’t say you truly love Jesus without loving the Church because Jesus is crazy about the church. So crazy about it that he died for it, loving it all the way the grave and back.
The Church will never be perfect. But it will always be something Jesus saw worthy enough to die for, right in the middle of all her brokenness and imperfection.
Ironically, this desire to love Jesus but not the Church actually exposes hypocrisy instead of being sourced by it…
Why do some expect the Church to be perfect, to be void of sin and brokenness when their own lives are like the rest of us, often far from being void of sin and brokenness?
Maybe it’s because if you can step back from community and keep the messy, broken body of Christ at arm’s length then you can put off truly dealing with your own messy brokenness.
A Way Forward:
- To the churches: Be legit. Be authentic. Come to grips with your brokenness and imperfection, but then fight for holiness and purity. Strive to be a bride worthy of Christ all the while resting in the knowledge that you already are, but this is never because of your own goodness but because of the fierce love of God.
- To the skeptics/spiritualists: If you feel you have created a way to love Jesus and not the Church you have created a false Jesus. Your indecisiveness or indifference about Jesus is in fact a decision about Jesus.
- To the individualists: you cannot privatize your faith into solely an individual pursuit of God that doesn’t inform your public life. Especially in our current culture where everything is being customized to meet your individual preference, real faith doesn’t work like that. It’s not all about you but it does include you.
Bottom line: If you truly love someone, you love the things they love most. You cherish the things they cherish.
You can’t truly love Jesus and not the Church.
It just gets awkward.