Prostitute and Mother
JULY 13, 2022
Augustine is quoted as saying, “The church is a prostitute . . . but she’s my mother.” You won’t understand if you’re a new Christian still basking in the light of forgiveness and joy.
You won’t understand if you’re a new Christian still basking in the light of forgiveness and joy.
Frankly, you don’t want to see hotdogs, cigars, the law, or the church being made.
The church really is my mother. Augustine also pointed out that no one can have God as their father unless the church is their mother.
When we get to heaven, I’ll introduce you to my mother. She was the earthiest Christian I’ve ever known. She read Spurgeon in the morning and the Bible at night, and, in between, she taught me how to cuss and helped people who needed help.
My mother loved me and was proud of me. If I had become a serial killer instead of a preacher, I suspect my mother, after her initial shock, would have said that they needed killing, and I had done the foul deed with great efficiency and skill.
The church, my other mother, has given me that same kind of commitment, and I have given the church that same kind of commitment in return. I love the church. I can get misty-eyed when I talk about the church. But while I have never been loved more than I have been loved by the church, I have also never been hurt more than I have been hurt by the church.
If you’re in the church because you want a warm and fuzzy place, you’re a fruitcake. If you’re committed to the church, you’re committed to division, misunderstanding, and pain. We’re all porcupines hugging one another in a hurricane.
I’m a part of that church, and you are, too. I’m screwed up, and you are, too.
How can a bunch of people as messed up as we are, stay together and love one another?
Let me start with a principle: There is a direct correlation between the importance God assigns to a particular subject and the amount of space he allocates to that subject in his book, the Bible.
Now the corollary to that principle: There is a direct and inverse correlation between the amount of space God allocates to a particular subject in his book, the Bible, and our difficulty in accepting and living out that truth.
In other words: If God talks about it a lot, you probably can’t do it.
God talks about our loving one another a lot. It is not only hard to love one another, but it is also hard to even talk about loving one another . . . because we have heard it so much, we tune it out. So, if you have heard this a thousand times before, see it as a reminder, not teaching.
If we plan to love one another…
It’s important we’re together.
“If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned” (John 15:6).
What does Jesus imply when he says that we should abide in him? Everybody who belongs to Jesus belongs to everybody who belongs to Jesus. The church is the Body of Christ, and abiding in Christ means to abide with one another, or the branch will wither.
I’m a loner, but I’ve discovered that I cannot function without you (and I’m not altogether happy about that). God has made me so that I’m incomplete without you. I can’t make it unless you help me . . . and you can’t make it unless I help you. I need to be loved when I’m unlovable. I need to be accepted and forgiven. You do, too. God has made it so that we are both the problem and the answer for each other.
It’s important we’re forgiven.
“Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you” (John 15:3).
While that seems out of place, it is necessary to what Jesus says about loving one another.
Most of us are angry because we have stuff to protect. And we have stuff to protect because we don’t think we’re forgiven and acceptable.
It is my guilt that separates me from you. It is my guilt that causes me to judge and reject you.
Radical grace presupposes radical sin.
If I tell you who I really am, will you still love me? I don’t dare to tell you the truth of who I am unless I already know I am forgiven and accepted by a gracious God.
It’s important we’re helpless.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
“[I’ve told you all of this] so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you” (John 15:16).
As Christians, God calls us to love our enemies. That doesn’t come easy. We need help.
When you’re dead, you can’t do anything to get any better. Jesus says, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). We don’t believe that.
What would you like for people to say at your funeral? If you’re like me, you may want people to say that you lived with integrity, loved your family, and were faithful to the place God called you. That doesn’t come easy. We need help.
Gathering together as the Body of Christ is supernatural. Loving people you wouldn’t even invite to dinner is supernatural. That’s why we have to run to Jesus . . . a lot. It is only there that we can become something we are not.
Let me ask you a question. What is it in your life that can only be explained in terms of the supernatural? What is going on in your church that can only be explained in terms of the supernatural? Loving unlovely people can only be explained in terms of the supernatural. The fact that we’re still together can only be explained in terms of the supernatural.
It’s important we’re shown.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends . . .” (John 15:13-14).
Illustration is always far better than instruction.
The Bible teaches in both the Old and the New Testaments about a God of grace, mercy, and love. But that was just words. Then Jesus came and loved us.
How do you know it is love if it is never demonstrated? How do you know it is love if there is no love?
That’s why the most important thing you can do when you can’t stand me is to let God love you. That’s the most important thing you can do for a divided church, too.
Go to the cross.
When I’m cussing and spitting, God says, “You need a hug.”
It’s important we’re significant.
“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you” (John 15:15-16).
Someone once asked a large company president who was very small in stature and a tyrant why he felt he had to condemn others and do it so loudly. He said, “If you’re big, you don’t have to shout. But if you’re little, no one will listen to you unless you do.”
That may be true, but let me tell you something absolutely true. People who perceive themselves as little, without value, and of no account are jerks.
If we know that God chose, accepted, and empowered us and called us his beloved child, it means we don’t have to shout at one another.
It’s important we’re sent.
“These things I command you, so that you will love one another” (John 15:17).
Someone gave me this quote (if I could remember who, I would give them credit): “The hand of God will never lead you to any place where the supply of God will not follow.”
As Christians, God has commanded us to love one another. God has sent us. And if God sent us to do the impossible, he will have to provide.
It’s hard to love the world and even harder for us to love one another. If I had been God, I would have created denominations around people’s proclivities . . . or at least a Sunday school class. A Sunday school class for people who like sports. A Sunday school class for the deeply offended. A Sunday school class for the politically and theologically correct. A Sunday school class for people who doubt and never say anything. A Sunday school class for people who always doubt and can’t stop talking about it. A Sunday school class for Democrats and one for Republicans.
If I were God, that’s what I would do. But God put us all together, and he told us to deal with it—to love one another. And where God leads, his supply will follow.
The principle is this: You take the first step, God will take the second step, and by the time you take the third step, you will know that it was God who took the first step.
You have a rich, loving Father who owns every heart and circumstance.
He is the very source of doing what we can’t do. The only source.