“I love Jesus but not the church.” I get the sentiment behind this statement. The church can be a messy, frustrating, graceless, and judgmental place. Leaders can abuse power and exert unhealthy levels of control over people under their care. So it’s easy to to say you love Jesus but not his bride. But first century Christians would have been thoroughly confused by this statement. So too would Christians in most parts of the world today. The notion that you can love Jesus and not the church is a product of the over-individualized way Western Christians approach their faith.
We tend to read the Bible with individual lenses rather than corporate ones. But the New Testament speaks of individuals as members of the believing community. The whole is emphasized far more than the individual. In fact, the individual only find meaning and fulfillment as a part of the whole. Yes, church life is messy but it’s a chance to practice forgiveness. Yes, leaders abuse power but they will one day be held accountable. The church matters and is not an optional part of the Christian life. Jesus died for her. That’s why loving Jesus requires loving the church.