Many people question whether Jesus really meant to start Christianity or the Church, usually because people tend to like Jesus a lot more than the Church and Christians. People blame the Church for many awful things done in the name of God or Jesus, and famous figures like John Lennon have said that it is the disciples that ruin the image of Jesus. People often don’t reject Jesus but the Church.
However, we need to examine whether Jesus meant the Church and we need to look at his actions as well as his words. One thing Jesus did was that he chose 12 disciples – just like how God’s people began with the 12 sons of Israel. In this he was making a clear statement – that he was starting a new community belonging to God. Jesus also called his disciples his “little flock” – same terminology used by God to describe his people Israel – and he used the imagery of the bride and the bridegroom like in the Old Testament. It shows Jesus was meaning to do the same thing as in the Old Testament – preparing a people for God.
Jesus also called his disciples his family above his natural family – this was a shocking declaration in that culture. It was radical and it showed Jesus believed in this.
Matthew 16:13 – the turning point of Jesus’ ministry, the first revelation of Jesus’ identity. This changes the course of events – Jesus says they’re on a new mission. This is the plan – ‘on this rock I will build my Church’. It is so serious that not even the gates of hell will prevail against it.
Jesus entrusts the authority and legacy to Peter and the disciples to inherit his calling. God wills that people carry this authority – His reign – on earth. When Jesus was on earth he was the light of the world; now his Church is the light, carrying his rule and glory across all over the world.
Jesus invented and intended the Church.
It’s no use debating about the good vs. the bad that has been done by the Church; the real question is was it really true Christianity, or a distortion, when bad things have been done in the name of Christ? Unfortunately we live with the consequences of what Constantine did in the 4th century, which was to make everyone in the Roman Empire a Christian, leading onto the tie we still have between the Church and the State. Jesus did not intend for this to happen – no one can be forced to become a Christian. But what we have had over the centuries is people who claim to be Christians, who didn’t even believe in Jesus, doing terrible acts while wearing the “uniform” of Christ. The Crusades is one example, done on false teaching about how killing Muslims would be your ticket to heaven.
Don’t dismiss Christianity because of what some people disguised as “Christians” have done. There are also countless amazing things that the Church has done, because of faithfulness to Jesus and his commands, acting as it should – e.g. Martin Luther King. But we have to remember, this doesn’t mean the Church will always look right when it’s being faithful to Jesus – people won’t always like or approve of what it does. Jesus said the Church will be persecuted and hated.
As the Church, we should aim to have favour with all people, but ultimately our allegiance to Christ always comes before pleasing people. We will sometimes be criticised by people who thing they’re doing good or the right thing (for example, when the disciples thought they were right in criticising the woman who poured out a whole jar of perfume on Jesus’ feet). However, do not use persecution as an excuse for just being obnoxious.
Some people find joining a church of Christians unattractive – we love individualism in this culture and don’t want to conform. But the truth is we’re still conformists no matter what, just to other things and other communities. For others, it’s an issue of standards, thinking they’re better than Christians – that Christians are boring failures and hypocrites, and they can “do better”. But Christians are just people who have admitted that they’re failures – that is the difference. We all need to admit the same, because none of us are perfect, and come freely into Jesus’ community.