Not all churches are 'true'!
Diversity is bound up in the very nature of God.
There he ministers in the sacred tent, the true place of worship that was built by the Lord and not by human hands.
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Not all churches are 'true'!
The writer of Hebrews is continuing his description of Jesus as the better High Priest. In today’s reading we are told that Jesus ministers in ‘the true place of worship.’ That phrase carries some tremendous implications if you take a moment to meditate upon what is being said. The very first thing I think of is, if that is the true place of worship, then what are all the places that we call places of worship? If that is the true one, does that make all others false?
Thankfully the writer doesn’t stop there, he goes on to say later in the reading that the place where earthly priests minister is a copy or shadow of the one in heaven. The Bible is clear that there are places where false worship is taking place, and we need to be careful not to go to those places. But we also need to be careful that we don’t begin to believe that where we go to worship is the ‘true place of worship.’
Nature proves to us that God loves diversity. There is one class of creatures that are referred to as birds, and yet, within the bird family there are thousands of kinds of birds. This is true of all creation. It is no different within His most beautiful of creations, the Church. There is only one Church and yet there are thousands of churches. Each one is unique; each one has its own character and style.
We are making a mistake when we begin to think that we the ‘one true church’ and that all others are not true. It would be like the eagle saying that it was the true bird and that the hummingbird is not a bird because it is not an eagle. Difference does not equal wrong. Diversity is bound up in the very nature of God. We should rejoice in the diversity of God’s creation, including within His Church.
There are some churches that are not copies or shadows of the true place of worship, just as there are some animals that mimic other animals. A flying squirrel glides like a bird but it is not a bird. Just because a church acts like a church doesn’t mean it is a copy of the ‘the true place of worship.’ It is up to each of us individually to know the truth about where we choose to worship.
Where my analogy falls apart is in the area of unity. There are some kinds of birds that prey upon other birds. This is a result of sin in the world. Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane that the church would be united. This doesn’t mean that we agree on everything and do all things exactly the same. It means that we do not prey upon each other. It means that we are to care about one another and to seek the well-being of churches that are not the same as ours. We must always remember we are but a shadow of the real place of worship. Jesus, keep us humble as we worship You wherever we are.
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