There exists a pseudo-Christianity which is hardly acknowledged in churches, and yet too often is not corrected by those churches. It is a kind of privatized, “between me and God” kind of Christianity, which has nothing at all to do with the Bible, and especially the New Testament.
Oh yes, there is a life in God between the individual and God. But according to scripture, that’s not enough. If we say we love God and yet do not love our brother or sister in Jesus, then our profession is not only shallow, but according to John, it’s a lie. And loving our brother and sister is a matter of the agape love which perhaps has not come to like them, but chooses to love them by good acts, by actions of grace and righteousness.
There’s no wonder that at least some Christians view church as an option, or as a very good thing we ought to take part in as believers in Christ. But it is not a mere option. It is part of our life in Christ. When we are joined to Christ by baptism and faith, we are joined to Christ’s body, the church. That is to be worked out in a local setting, the local church.
Forgiving someone, especially when they’ve asked for forgiveness and tried to make things right, is not just a heart matter between one and God. You have to forgive them directly, to them. And you have to reconcile as best you can. That doesn’t mean all the sudden you become the best of friends, or friends at all, though by grace we should count ourselves as friends to all who follow Jesus, and are thus a part of that family.
As for me, I am not in the least intested in this kind of Christianity. It is no witness to the world, and amounts to disobedience to our Lord. The church for too many centuries has not been strong on this score, but in some quarters now and in the recent past it is weaker in this than ever.
I find that I must be committed to the church, and with a commitment that is spelled out clearly in scripture in letters such as Ephesians. We need to study the “one another” passages in scripture and put them into practice. Or else we need to fold tent and do something else. And quit calling our profession Christian.
Am I being too harsh? Perhaps. But I speak of matters which I think are life and death. Even at its best, I think the church is weak in this area, and I include myself as part of that problem. I am more than happy to remain anonymous and invisible. And I don’t really want to deal with problems, but would just as soon hide. But the Lord won’t let us off with such half-measures or none at all. And this kind of Christianity does both harm to the church itself as well as to the church’s witness to the world.