I read a disturbing story in yesterday’s newspaper about a local church, which led me to write this new entry for “Our Daily Journey.” As always, any ideas for improvement are appreciated. The Barth reference comes from his Church Dogmatics IV/1, p. 691-92 (T & T Clark, 1956).
When Under Armour wanted athletes to notice its new brand of sweat-wicking underwear, the upstart company marketed its apparel with the tag line, “Protect This House.” The slogan was a hit, for it implied that Under Armour transformed athletes into gladiators who fiercely defended their home field.
I thought of this motto as I read in the newspaper about a ruckus in a nearby church. According to the paper, church members were having a heated conversation with their pastor when he turned to leave. In his haste—and perhaps anger—he bumped an elderly woman, who stumbled a few feet before regaining her balance by grabbing on to a church pew. She then sued him for assault and battery. The paper reported that a jury exonerated the pastor, but the parishioners were still bickering about who was at fault and by how much.
This selfish silliness is precisely what Paul warned against in his letter to the Corinthians. “When one of you has a dispute with another believer, how dare you file a lawsuit and ask a secular court to decide the matter instead of taking it to other believers!” (v. 1). Is it worth demolishing the reputation and ministry of your church just to settle a personal score?
Most of us would not so brazenly destroy our church, but we may tear it down in smaller, yet equally effective ways. No church is perfect—in part because we’re there—so there will always be something to criticize. But as Karl Barth warned, we must avoid “the cheap anti-clerical clamour of the gutter.” It is a “dangerous matter to criticize the Church,” for the church is the body of Christ. And so it’s possible that “Jesus Christ Himself will be criticized, attacked, condemned, and perhaps rejected.” Think twice before venting your frustrations with outsiders. Protect this house.