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Imperfect churches
pastor corner

Pastor Jim Jackson

Richmond Hill Presbyterian Church

Here it is right up front: there’s no such thing as the perfect church. The short letter to the Philippians reveals the Apostle Paul’s love for this church. And why not, for they stuck with him through thick and thin when help from other churches was rare.

He writes this letter from prison, facing trial in Rome.

He’s anything but despairing.

He encourages no pity from the Philippians, instead he had discovered how God was working for good through his ongoing difficulties. His witness in prison had reached and influenced persons in high government positions, some of whom became believers in Christ. In addition, Paul testifies that some believers with wavering faith had actually become stronger believers.

Rather than feeling despair, doubt, and anger toward God, Paul experienced joy in his hardships, and numerous times he encouraged his readers to “rejoice in the Lord.” Clearly this is an upbeat letter of thanksgiving to God and to a loving, supportive congregation. We might be tempted to believe that the Philippian church was the prefect church, one without the common faults all of us have witnessed and experienced — something like a colony of heaven on heaven.

Not so, for we read in two places how there were unfortunate distractions from the church’s purpose and ministry. Certainly this was a good church where people could worship, grow in Christ, and minister effectively, yet this congregation wasn’t the perfect church.

How can we say that?

Unfortunately there were two women, disciples of Christ, who just couldn’t get along — Euodias and Syntiyche. A controversy apparently arose, bringing a blemish on the church’s ministry. So Paul begs them to work it out, eventually becoming of the same mind.

I hardly believe Paul was wishing these persons always agree, rather to be respectful of each other’s opinions.

Each day’s news affirms our need for such harmony in both government and church. But we are in no position to accuse the church of hypocrisy, when it is made of people like ourselves who “sin and come short of the glory of God.” One preacher’s response to someone’s complaint about hypocrites in the church: “Come on, one more won’t hurt.”

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