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      Nurturing people in the image of God since 1868.                                                                          POB 397/520 Dry Creek Rd./Smithville, TN

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THE CHURCH LOVED OR LOATHED?

Paul Rogers has served as the pulpit minister for the Centerville Church of Christ in Centerville, Tennessee since January 1, 1957. He has written an excellent book about those years entitled, These 40 Years. Paul Rogers obviously enjoys serving as a preacher, with all its ups and downs. In the chapter in his book bearing the title, "It's Great To Be A Preacher," he notes, "I have been loved by almost everybody and loathed by a few. I have been helped by the many, heckled by a handful." Loathed and loved, helped and heckled these words are true of practically every preacher, elder, and member of the church who seeks to serve God. Dogs will bark, and the fact that the postman is bringing good news won't stop them. If the cross where a sinless Christ died teaches us anything, it is that some people, strangely, even religious ones, are capable of loathing what God loves and heckling what He helps.

Jesus Himself was (and is) loathed by some, and yet loved by others. Should it surprise us that the same is true of His church? This truth is illustrated by the story of a Bible class teacher who asked her young students, "Who wants to go to Heaven?" All over the room little hands shot into the air with the exception of Benny. The shocked teacher asked, "Benny, don't you want to go to Heaven?" Benny glanced around at his classmates, and then with a sour look on his face explained, "Not if this bunch is going!" What is your reaction to the church? Do you loathe her or love her? Are you helping her or heckling her? Some never realize that our love for the church is inseparably linked with love for those holy but human, faithful but flawed people who sit on the pews with us every Lord's Day. The apostle John reminds us it is impossible to loathe our brothers while claiming to love God *If someone says, 'I love God,' and  hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also" (I John 4:2021). An old gospel spiritual says, "It ain't my brother, it ain't my sister, but it's me 0 Lord, standing in the need of prayer." That's never more true than when I find myself loathing those whom God loves. Charles Heimsath says the chief trouble with the church is that you and I are in her. That's certainly true if we loathe each other. The cross where Jesus died compels us to see that the church is loved, not loathed, by God. Is she loved or loathed by you?