As I sit in my chair and watch my wife sleep, I have a lot of time to think. One thing I think a lot about is how the saints have drawn together to honor and bless our family. There are a few things people should know, however. Ours is not the only suffering family in our church. We have another family who is going through similar things with cancer (they have been battling for over 10 years), and many who have gone through it in the past few years. We have lots and lots of families with new babies. Lots of families with other health issues that have offered opportunities for the church to minister to them. We have had men get laid off from work, broken bones, surgeries, illnesses and all the normal things people go through. All this to say that, in terms of suffering, we’re a pretty normal church community.
Some people have observed what is going on with our family and have attributed it to the fat that we live in a small town. But while there are some things about being in a small town that contribute to what we’ve been observing, it certainly isn’t the whole story—not even close. What we are seeing is the body of Christ, Christ’s body, Christ functioning like a healthy body is supposed to function. Paul tells us in Ephesians 5 that husbands are to love their wives as they love their own body (v. 28). He is assuming that we all love our bodies, which we do. Then he continues and says that we nurture and cherish them and so should a husband treat his wife (v. 29).
What is also assumed here is that Jesus treats his body in the same way. When one part hurts, the whole body hurts. When one part is suffering the whole body suffers (1 Cor. 12). And when one part is having trouble the whole body springs into action to care for and try to relieve the pain. Jesus’ body is made up of people (Eph. 4:12). The individual people are like cells and body parts. Each one has different roles and gifts. Each one brings different abilities and strengths that help Jesus’ body function more efficiently.
What we’ve been blessed to see in our churches, here in Moscow, is the local body of Christ (Biblically speaking all the Christians are the body of Christ, not just our little group) acting like a healthy body. Jesus in action; lifting up individual members who are suffering, praying and encouraging those who need to be encouraged to continue the struggle and to be ushered into glory to spend eternity with the Lord.
And it isn’t just our little, holy huddle, who are being blessed by Jesus in this way. Our churches are active in the community as well: we have a counseling center, where we provide soul care and minister to people who are struggling with the problems of living; we have ministries to people who are struggling with finances, who have recently gotten out of jail and need help recovering and entering into the world of Jesus rather than falling back into the life that got them into the mess in the first place; we have rather large women’s groups who pray for those who are suffering and provide practical aid to those who need it; we are helping to start a church in one of the neighboring towns and are making plans to start another here in Moscow; we have a thriving college ministry (we are a college town after all), and a growing and vibrant ministry to international students; we have 15 active (TRC has four of their own), qualified, and godly elders who meet each week to pray for the people God has given them to care for and then they go out and meet with the people to help them continue to walk with God; we have 15 -20 deacons dedicated to ministering to the physical needs of the members of the church and to the surrounding population; we have a pretty fantastic music ministry, our director of music has been putting the psalms to music and our worship service on Sunday is a lot like stepping into heaven itself (of course that’s exactly what is happening); and both our pastors are world class preachers and authors.
We also have enemies. Can you believe it? People hate us for doing good. There are people out there who have never met us personally who spend a considerable about of time writing and saying bad things about us (don’t believe me? Just google us). We have people who were with us, but aren’t any longer, who for various reasons hate us. The cool thing about this is that Jesus was hated by the same sorts of people. He was slandered, lied about, misrepresented, and eventually killed for all the same reasons as us. And he anticipated that it would happen to his followers as it happened to him (eg. Jn. 15:18). And he told us what to do—and so we rejoice not only in the blessings that he’s given us, but also for our enemies. Those who hate us, prove to us that we’re on the right track.
All this to say that, while we aren’t where we will be (we have a lot of maturing and growing to do), we think we are a pretty healthy expression of Jesus. He said that the student will be like his teacher (Luke 6:40). And our goal is to be like him—little Jesuses walking around, living like Jesus, so that when people see our good works, they will see Jesus and will give God glory. It’s all about Jesus.