The glory of God has always stood opposed to the glory of men and the institutions of men. God chose the foolish things of this world. The whole Old Testament is a massive glorious story of shepherd boys taking down giants, women crushing the skulls of evil kings, and a few despised young Jewish men putting the mighty Babylonian empire to shame. We see the weak and despised things of this work standing before emperors, witnessing to the kingdom of God in this world. I love the song of Mary: “He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate;”
The Church of Jesus Christ is not our institution, and because of the glory of the Lord who is the head of the Church, it must stand opposed to the institutions and the glory of man. When the Church becomes our church, our pitiful glory, then the glory of God will stand opposed to us. It will stand opposed to us, because we have taken His Holy Church and made it into an institution which defends my glory, my name, my renown in the world.
We all want to be like Martin Luther. But nobody wants the fierce opposition that Luther faced. We all want to be like John Calvin, but nobody wants to be expelled from Geneva for a number of years. Nobody wants to be despised by the institutional church and the world, so that the glory of God might break free into His Church and His world. Rather, we align ourselves with that which is popular, that which is shiny. This is what Calvin and Luther absolutely refused to align themselves with. This is what so many unnamed men and women who gave astounding glory to God refused to align themselves with.
Our churches are not the institutions of Luther or Calvin, who laid down their lives and reputations so that God would get the glory. God is most glorified when we lay down our reputation so that the soul of an unbeliever might be saved. God is most glorified when His servants seek the unity and the up-building of the church even when they are despised as the folly of the world. God is glorified when His servants give their lives up to be the planks of the bridge for unbelievers to walk over into the kingdom. God is glorified when His servants use their reputation and standing as a bridge for two churches to walk over to meet each other and be united in the Spirit and by the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ.
The nature of a bridge is that it has to be strong. It doesn’t have to be fancy to do its job. It is trampled on, it is driven on. Cracks show up, and they have to be buttressed. Pillars grow weak under the load, and they have to be supported. Diesel and oil are spilled on it. There are collisions, and in the rush, people don’t think about the bridge. But the bridge is necessary for the meeting of two sides.
The question is: are we willing to meet Jesus outside the camp? Are we willing to follow His commands, take up our cross and follow Him? Are we willing to enjoy the glory of being trampled on so that we can see God magnified? Are we willing to face the thick of conflict head-on and walk away knowing that Jesus won and His Name was glorified as we subdued the lust for glory in ourselves by the blood of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit? Are we willing to face the scorn of our church family for seeking to show them that the family of God is massive and worldwide?
This is a tall order. For that the glory of God will have to take the center. I think about the words of George Whitefield. George Whitefield was an preacher in the Great Awakening in America. He had many weaknesses and faults. But he showed the way to Church Unity: “Let my name be forgotten, let even my friends forget me, if by that means the cause of the blessed Jesus may be promoted.”
May the cause of the blessed Jesus promoted, and may we press into that glory. And may the Church benefit as a result.