I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness. (1 Cor. 10:1-5)
Pop celebrity Justin Bieber recently drew attention and criticism to his own spirituality when he made the statement “going to Church doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than going to Taco Bell makes you a Taco.” Although the logic here is too stupid to bother analyzing (and plenty of posts have been written about it), I do have to say that I understand the point he is trying to make somewhat.
The Church has left a bad taste in people’s mouths, which he also says in that interview. One of the largest criticism against the Church today is that we are hypocritical. Several decades ago, going to Church was mainstream. It was what any good, outstanding citizen was expected to do on a Sunday morning. Somewhere along the line, the idea was propagated that “good people” go to Church. It’s no wonder that a popular view of the Church is that we are self-righteous, if anyone ever believed that going to Chruch makes you a good person.
Paul warns against this thought in the 1 Cor. reading above. He reminds believers that even God’s people in scripture ate the holy food and drink, were under God’s care, and yet fell away from God, chasing idols and breaking God’s law. Church is not a place for “good people.” It is a house full of people, who although are wonderfully made and loved by God, are also broken in their own way, in need of God’s healing. Sinners in need of God’s forgiveness.
Going to Church doesn’t make us Christian. We are made Christians because somewhere along our life journey, Jesus found us and said “come, follow me.” Maybe Christ claimed you as an infant. Maybe Christ found you in the pit of despair. Maybe Christ broke you free of chains. Maybe Christ found you as a friend. The point is that Christ finds and chooses us and makes us Christian, not the other way around.
Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than going to Taco Bell makes you a taco. But going to Church does make you something: part of the body of Christ – the same spiritual food we share when we gather in worship. That wonderful mystery of transformation of sinners to saints, broken to healed, individuals to community, bread for the world… That is something Taco Bell can never do. It is something practicing spirituality alone can never do. It’s something we can only get from being part of the body of Christ, the Church, which we are made part of because we have been claimed by the God who loves us and is faithful to us always.