Taking it personally

I didn’t think I could be offended very easily.

I laugh a lot more than I cry. I don’t take myself seriously (not always helpful) and it takes something pretty major to see me angry. If you think you might have done or said something to me that could have caused offence, I can almost guarantee you that it won’t have done, or if it did, I’ve already forgotten it.

However, in the last six months, I have become way more sensitive and way more easily offended over a particular subject. Or, I suppose it’s not so much a subject, as it is a way of life. It might sound strange, but recently I have had what feels like a heart-transplant for the church. The local churches, all over the world; God’s people gathering together to change things; God’s plan A (and there is no plan B); “the body of Christ”; Jesus’ followers as a team on earth; God’s idea as the hope for humanity. The Church.

I am taking it personally if people in the church are bad-mouthing the church.

I never used to be so easily offended by this, but I warn you, now I am really not cool with it. Why? Simply, because I am the church. I take it personally if I hear the church being slated, slagged-off, blamed or brought-down... because it is personal. It’s me. Obviously, if I see and hear people in my own local church ripping it apart, that upsets me the most. I get angry. I might cry. I definitely won’t lie down and get walked-over though. I will stand up and fight for the church, even if it’s through tears. Because it is me. I am the church.

And that’s actually the truth for anyone who follows Jesus.

You are the church.

You, in community with other Christians, are God’s plan to bring his hope to the world. Therefore, since you are the church, if you bad-mouth it, you are bad-mouthing yourself. Honestly, the best way to describe it when Christians slate their church is that it’s self-harm. However horrific that imagery may be, it’s the truth. We literally injure ourselves with every cutting remark and unconstructive criticism. So, when I hear my church being moaned about, with no evidence of love for it (and that’s different from a rebuke in love, or wanting to change things, out of love) I take it personally. When my church drops the ball and lets someone down, I am part of it. I don’t point the blame finger elsewhere, I stand as the church, even in its failings, and help shoulder the responsibility. When the church sees breakthrough and God moves in power, I celebrate as the church, with the church too.

I won’t carry around the church as a burden though. It’s not all about me, in some kind of Messiah-complex, self-absorbed way. Jesus is the head of the church, he has the final responsibility and it’s to him we answer. But on the ground, he trusts us to be his out-working. So we judge the church as we would judge ourselves. We do to the church as we would have done to us. I will not self-harm by ripping down my church. I will not jump ship when church gets tough, because I am it, in the rough and the smooth. And if I hear a follower of Jesus tearing down Jesus’ body, God’s idea, and not loving it, even though there will always be things we disagree with or don’t particularly like, I will take it personally. I pray I stand up and speak up. Even on our off-days, I will love the church. 

Miriam Swanson

Global Student Mission Leader

Miriam helps equip the church for student mission internationally. She's based in the USA and hungry to see young adults follow Jesus with all of who they are. 

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