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Of Dragons and Church

“Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child.” Revelation 12:13

Anyone who moves regularly in Christian circles eventually meets with those who, sadly, have church-scars on their soul. The friendly dog of Christian fellowship turned into a dragon that bit them on the arm. Maybe that someone is you. There, where you hoped to find warmth, you found coldness. Where you looked for hope, you found hardness. Where you expected to find forgiveness and acceptance, you found, far too often, bitterness, judgement, indifference, arrogance, unkindness, and meanness. Where you longed for welcoming love, you were met with withering legalism.

As a result, some have forsaken the pew altogether. I’m sure you have seen it too. People post things like “I don’t need church to be a Christian” or “I believe in Jesus, I just don’t believe in organized religion.” And all of this has come about, more or less, because of the people they encountered there. Gandhi’s famous line comes to mind, “I like their Christ, I don’t like their Christians.”

I don’t wish, at this moment, to engage with the complicated decision to leave the fellowship of the local church. That is a difficult question, requiring more time than this mere dust bunny has at the moment.

The point I find myself pondering today is more along the lines of “why is church, sometimes, so hard?” Why is there conflict? Why is there unkindness? Why the cold and careless comments made by members, or leaders, or even the preacher himself?

I think one answer is found in the words of our text at the top of this page; “he persecuted the woman.” You see, the Devil hates the church and hates its members. I am not excusing poor behavior or justifying sinful actions. But I think we have to bear in mind that the devil works double-time to disturb the peace and purity of churches. He dislikes a Christian home, but he really hates a Christian church. And sadly, Satan finds an ally in the heart of every Christian, because we are not free from sin within. Not only that, but we would be foolish to think that any local church consists entirely of truly regenerated souls. The tares and the wheat worship side by side today (Matt 13:25).

This is why, I think, that life within the fellowship of a local church is so often hard, and why we need to be especially mindful of the Devil’s devices (2 Cor 2:11). It is also why, I think, we need to be patient and understanding with those who have met with his malignity within the fellowship of the saints. When Peter was about to fall to Satan’s sifting, Christ’s response was not finger-pointing but fervent prayer. “I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail, and when you have returned to Me, strengthen the brethren (Luke 22:32).”

Friends, when thinking about how hard church can be, don’t forget to factor in the Devil. Maybe Tolkien was onto something when he wrote “It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.”

Photo by Ravit Sages on Unsplash

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