Why is More Important Than How
A Christian who has spent any length of time in the Church knows that she can appear less than beautiful when subjected to human scrutiny. Bickering, division, scandal – all of these things and more wound her and leave scars and many within seem to care little about the damage done. But when we pause and consider the view from God’s perspective we’re humbled. He looks upon the less-than-faithful, worldly, gospel-possessing but imperfect Church and He loves her unconditionally because, to Him, she is the most beautiful thing He has fashioned. To read Dustin Benge’s love letter about the beauty of the Bride of Christ is to be moved to repentance for one’s lack of similar vision.
The Loveliest Place is a beautiful book and one that I will be rereading regularly. Theologically deep, the depth is contained in a heartfelt paean to love the Church in the same way God does. Benge systematically presents the unique treasures that have been entrusted to the body and the eternal value that God assigns to them. Dare we consider of less value, or worse, abuse these privileges through apathy or ignorance. I was deeply captivated by page after page or prose that encouraged my vision to lift to a higher perspective, to look past the scars and stains and see the Church as her Creator does. The theology can wait for a second reading if the first pass draws us back to the beauty of the Bride.
The Loveliest Place should be on the shelf of every pastor, elder and dedicated church member. I find it much more powerful than any crop of ministry ‘how-to’ books because it gives the important ‘why’ to everything we do in the Church. Understanding the reason why the Church is so valued by God gives the motivation for everything we do (or don’t do) as people blessed to be part of the Bride. In the introduction, the earth is turned and the reader is confronted with our own attitudes as Benge challenges, “Chosen by God the Father, purchased by Christ the Son, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, the church should be cherished and recognized as ‘dear’ by all who call her home.” Reflecting on what we encourage, discourage, allow or ignore gives us our commitment to this truth. Perhaps our prayers need to return to the ‘why’ of the church, to the reason that we want to treasure her and her members.