God's safety blanket
Stephen Morris reflects on the significance of every individual’s calling in fulfilling God’s purposes for mankind
It’s all too easy to think of the church as being a bit insignificant in today’s increasingly secular world. Perhaps we’re a bit like the much-misunderstood King Canute commanding the waves to go back and having no effect whatsoever. Or, hopefully, not.
Many of us from Shepperton attended the recent Together at Westpoint event at the end of August. For those of us working away in a local church, such events give us opportunity to see we are not alone, as thousands of like-minded Christians gather together, in this case just from one movement across the south of England, mainly west of London.
At Westpoint we were reminded by teaching from Nehemiah of the calling to attend to our own bit of the ‘wall’ as part of a much bigger and more significant ‘whole’. In our case that significant ‘whole’ is the worldwide church. We heard about the people who had the unglamorous task of rebuilding the ‘dung gate’ in the well of Jerusalem, hardly a task we would all clamour to be involved in: but it was one that was essential were Jerusalem not to cease to function in the most unpleasant way! I believe God gives double blessing to those who clean the church toilets…
So, we’re building our local bit of the worldwide church. But is the worldwide church really that significant in a decaying world riddled with uncertainty and violence? Well, yes it is. It’s not just significant, it’s vital.
I have this picture of the church being like a blanket that surrounds the world. It may be insignificant in terms of the proportion of people worldwide who have chosen to belong to it (or been chosen to belong to it: a discussion for another time, I think!). Yet it’s rather like the earth’s atmosphere. The atmosphere is about one millionth of the earth’s mass. Yet it is essential for life and it is essential as it shields us from the full force of the sun’s power and also holds the sun’s warmth when that power isn’t on us. Without it we’d spend our days in the microwave and our nights in the freezer, which would be mildly inconvenient to say the least!
Likewise, the blanket of the church actually shields the world from the full force of evil. That sounds arrogant, and at the same time the extent of evil we see in the world makes that sound rather ineffective. But building the church is God’s work that he’s doing using thousands, millions, of people worldwide. It’s a work in progress. Without it we would see a world far more evil than it already is and one day God promises us we will see a new earth that is free from evil.
At the moment the blanket is imperfect, but it is still doing its job of protecting the world from sliding into total depravity. Some bits of the blanket are thick and luxuriant, other parts are thinner and less luxuriant. Some parts need repair, some are moth-eaten. God is using every individual in the church to maintain their section of the blanket, and the job that you do in the church, whatever it is, is essential to maintain the integrity of that blanket that is shielding the world from much worse things. If our part is one of the moth-eaten parts (I’m not suggesting it is, necessarily), we need to work harder to maintain it: and God will provide the stamina and the raw materials. If it’s one of the more luxuriant parts we still need to play our part to keep it like that.
As members of God’s church we need to be focussed on doing the job God has called us to, in full knowledge that it is a vital part of fulfilling His plan for mankind as a whole. We have a vital purpose, brothers and sisters, however small it may seem to you. God has called you to it for the sake of mankind as a whole and for the sake of his eternal purpose; does that not blow your mind?