To Say You Love Jesus but Do Not Love His Body the Church is Rude And Destroys Your Claim to Really Love Him

052114A brief consideration from my Our Sunday Visitor column of last week:

Q: My daughter says she loves Jesus but just doesn’t like the Church (for lots of reasons). She doesn’t see any problem with this and doesn’t think going to Church is necessary. Is there anything I can say to her? – Name withheld, via email.

A: The Church is the Body of Christ (cf Col 1:8; 1 Cor 12:27; Rom 12:4-6). Hence to declare love for Jesus but disdain for His body is inauthentic. We cannot have Jesus without His Body.

How would your daughter feel if someone said to her, “I love you, but your body is awful, ugly, and I can’t stand it”? She would not appreciate this and would reject any artificial distinctions between herself and her body. It is the same with Jesus.

Perhaps if your daughter can be taught to understand the rather insulting quality of her position and that it renders her love for Jesus inauthentic, she will reconsider.

Certainly there are both sinners and imperfections in Jesus’ Body, the Church. But even historically (in the Bible), Jesus was found in the “strange company” of sinners. Many in Jesus’ time were scandalized by the associations He maintained. But Jesus is found where He is found, not where we want Him to be.

So if your daughter loves Jesus and really wants to find Him, she needs to join the rest of us poor sinners. Christ and His Body are one.

Here is an old hymn of the Church. And, despite its Protestant origins, it has a very solid ecclesiology. I would only quibble with the first line, in which Jesus is referred to as the Church’s ONE foundation—especially given that Jesus spoke of building His Church on the Rock of Peter. Catholics can accept the line that Jesus is the Church’s one foundation in terms of primary causality, but we must also insist (with Scripture) that Peter is the rock in terms of secondary causality. In other words, Jesus supports Peter, who is the rock. Otherwise, though, the hymn is accurate and beautiful:

1 The Church’s one foundation
is Jesus Christ her Lord.
She is his new creation
by water and the word.
From heaven he came and sought her
to be his holy Bride.
With his own blood he bought her,
and for her life he died.

2 Elect from every nation,
yet one o’er all the earth,
her charter of salvation:
one Lord, one faith, one birth.
One holy name she blesses,
partakes one holy food,
and to one hope she presses,
with every grace endued.

3 Though with a scornful wonder
this world sees her oppressed,
by schisms rent asunder,
by heresies distressed,
yet saints their watch are keeping;
their cry goes up: “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
shall be the morn of song.

4 Mid toil and tribulation,
and tumult of her war,
she waits the consummation
of peace forevermore:
till with the vision glorious
her longing eyes are blest,
and the great Church victorious
shall be the Church at rest.

5 Yet she on earth has union
with God, the Three in One,
and mystic sweet communion
with those whose rest is won:
O happy ones and holy!
Lord, give us grace that we,
like them, the meek and lowly,
may live eternally.

4 Replies to “To Say You Love Jesus but Do Not Love His Body the Church is Rude And Destroys Your Claim to Really Love Him”

  1. I’ve never met a person who ‘loves Jesus’ but not his Church – Agnostic, ‘Catholic’, or ‘Protestant’ – who has anything even barely resembling any kind of devotional life whatsoever, when gently challenged.
    It’s simply a ubiquitous, meaningless slogan which they parrot.

    The one thing they’re normally not looking for, is a reasoned argument. Any attempt to give one will almost invariably fall on deaf ears or the trotting out of more introjected slogans. It’s just their justification for doing ‘the fun stuff’ they do on a Sunday instead of ‘boring church’, not that church somehow prevents, or distracts, them from having a deep ‘relationship with Jesus’ (which is what they’re trying to imply about themselves if one takes it at face value).

    At other times, it’s simply pious-sounding ‘hell fire insurance’ for someone who has a vague unease about the truth value of that slogan. They’re ‘nice’ people, and their friends are definitely ‘nice’ people, and they all will parrot the same thing when challenged. ‘We all can’t be wrong, as surely God won’t send all of us to hell, will he?’. A convenient, ad populum, ‘strength in numbers’, form of wishful thinking.

    What we have to do is find out what they mean, and get them to think about their own ‘position’.

    That said, the thing we should avoid – at all costs – is to come over all Vorisesque about it. If they, or I, lose our temper, I’m the only one that’s lost the opportunity to communicate the truth (to a soul) and got them to close the door. We must always be winsome and artful in our method.

    Greg Koukl, a Calvinist friend of Frank Beckwith and expert in apologetics, uses something called the ‘Columbo Tactic’ in apologetics which is very powerful.

    Also, he suggests we shouldn’t always be so zealous to ‘seal the deal’, but ‘Put a stone in their shoe’. This takes the pressure off us ‘to win’, and therefore, reduces the possibility of conflict, but leaves them chewing over it rather than slamming the door.

    I would suggest watching the video below. It’s a brilliant hour-long talk by Greg Koukl, but summarises the issue of how to defend the Faith without getting defensive, and possibly getting them to think about things. It’s well worth watching all of it, and it includes how to use the Columbo Tactic:

  2. Monsignor Pope,
    I love my churchgoing friends and members of our parish.

    It’s the atheists, nosey, arrogant, lazy, lying, crass, selfish, phony people at work or in public places that I have trouble with. How about the people that drive 60 mph on the fast lane? Or the ones that ride up close behind me while I attempt to change lanes (because I’m going 60 – ha ha).

    Alas, I continue to pray for charity and a pure heart…but while I’m at church, I’m with family!!
    I feel at home.

  3. Monsignor Pope, “I love you, but not your body– in fact, I really can’t stand it” is a really good way to put it. Never thought of it that way before, so I thank you.

    Also, I’m seeing something curious: many who claim to “love Jesus but not the Church” will use Jesus’s reaching out to sinners rather selectively– “Jesus ate with sinners!” when it comes to enabling certain favorite sins. But “sinners in the Church” are equally good reason to not go to Mass, the Heavenly Banquet. So “Jesus ate with sinners”– but not with sinners that we “don’t like.”

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