In one of our gospels, Jesus is quoted as saying, “On this rock I will build my Church, and the jaws of death shall not prevail against it.” When Jesus made that statement the Church was just beginning. It was very small and seemingly insignificant. But now it reaches around the world and plays a vital role in the lives of millions of people. Enemies have tried and still try to stop it, but they have failed. Despite opposition from without and weaknesses from within, the Church has lived and flourished across the centuries.
The words of Jesus have come true. The jaws of death have not prevailed against His Church. Why is this? How is one to explain the vitality and continued growth of the Church of Jesus Christ?
Human effort alone cannot explain it. There is more to it than that. You and I are members of the Church because the Church meets some real needs and helps to explain some deep mysteries in our own lives.
One of these is the need for meaning in life. Here on this planet of ours, which is but a small particle in a vast universe, is a thing called human life – our life. And we are so constructed that we look at that life and ask, “What does it mean?” An occasional voice is heard insisting that life is empty and meaningless. But something within us rejects such cynical simplification.
All of us are very conscious of the fact that we live in two worlds. One is material, physical and tangible. The other is spiritual, intangible and invisible. One is made up of things we can weigh and measure. The other is made up of ideas and ideals, of intelligence, conscience, and creative genius. We all stand with one foot in each of these worlds and we know it.
If this world and everything in it is an accident of electrons and protons, then there is no meaning to life. But if God is real, if His purpose runs through all creation, if we are made in His image, if we can be fellow-workers with Him, then all of life is filled with meaning.
This is the profound issue in our Christian faith. So you see, when a person bypasses or throws overboard his or her Christian faith, he or she is cutting out the very core of life itself.
Christ and His Church across the centuries have been helping people to put this “right kind of why” into life. Therein lies one reason for the vitality of our Church.
Another reason is this: right defeated seems stronger than wrong triumphant. In recent times we wonder – how far can evil go? It can obviously go a long way. Far enough to crucify Christ. But it has its limits. For even when evil nailed the Son of God to a cross, that evil victory turns into its own defeat. Error and falsehood can run for a while, but they reach their limits.
Some power greater than us has hold of us. Some power greater than our own has its hand on history. The New Testament tells us what that power is. The Lord God omnipotent reigneth. And the Church marches on.
So, my friends, before we pass the Church by or write it off as irrelevant, as so many in the news media seem to imply, I urge you to take the measure of what you would be surrendering: that human life has within it basic spiritual meaning. That human history is under a sovereignty greater than human strength.
This is the truth. This is our church as Jesus established it. “And the jaws of death shall not prevail against it.”