A Foretaste (repost)

Ever wonder what heaven is like? Are there really streets of gold and pearly gates and all that? God provided some pictures and metaphors for us in Scripture, but it’s difficult to really know for sure what it’s like.

People once felt the same way about God. I wonder what God would be like if we could see Him? How would he handle conflict in relationships? Then, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). God put skin on, and He – Jesus – showed us what God is really like. This event is what theologians have called the incarnation.

Now, it’s been almost 2,000 years since Jesus walked this earth, and there are many who are asking those questions again. What is God like? What would Jesus do? How would Jesus show love to the unlovely? Would Jesus still show mercy and grace? But, how are we to know what Jesus is like?

The Apostle Paul actually addressed these questions in 1 Corinthians 12. He provides a list of spiritual gifts and descriptions of church life before he makes this startling statement in Verse 12 – “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” You see, general logic flowing from the previous discourse would bring Paul to say “so it is with the church.” But, he doesn’t. He says, “so it is with Christ.” As such, the church is here to be a kind of incarnation of Christ on earth until He returns.

Using Paul’s surprising logic, we should consider the following as answers to the previous questions. How are we to know what Jesus is like? Look at the Church. What is God like? Look at the Church. Ever wonder what heaven is like? Look at the Church. I don’t know about you, but I’m not so interested in heaven any more. Have you looked at the Church (the big “C” universal Church) lately? Those who do not know Christ have looked, and, by-and-large, they have determined to look elsewhere.

The Church is meant to be the body, “embodiment” or “incarnation” of Christ. If it were a pure picture, life in the church would be “a foretaste of heaven.” Gerald Sittser has put it well. “When the church is functioning at its best, there is simply no community on earth that can rival it. But when the church is functioning at its worst, there is no community on earth that can do as much damage.” Sadly, our communities are filled with people who have been damaged by what we call “the Church.”

We are not in a hopeless state, though. God has not given up on His body. Rather, God seeks those who will worship Him in spirit, truth and love. He still desires for people to know that we are his disciples by our love for one another. We have not left a good taste in the mouths of those who have experienced our mess, but something still has the power to change lives – love (1 Cor. 13).

We won’t be able to change ourselves or others’ opinions overnight, but we can begin by submitting to the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit and sharing tasty samples of Christ’s love as we obey His command to “love one another.” Would Jesus still show mercy and grace? Yes, and so should we. Would Jesus show love to the unlovely? Yes, and so should we. How would Jesus handle conflicts in relationships? With love, and so should we.

As the Church, our love for one another should so permeate our lives and communities that people can begin to get a glimpse of what Jesus is like and how much He loves them. Even if we only start small, it’s still a change that can make an eternal difference. We should begin to speak and view the church very differently. “Ever wonder what heaven is like? Experience the Church and get a little taste.”

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