Thing is, the ugly duckling was a swan. But it didn't know it was....
In the Bible we find these words, "That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus."
Wow, that Bible does say some things! The biggest challenge we face as Christians is to discover who we have become, because of and in Christ Jesus. Our history and our habits constrain our imagination, and only by meditating on the Scriptures can we begin to see what we have become in Christ. As a matter of fact, I feel another Scriptural quote coming on...
"His power at work in us can do far more than we dare ask or imagine".
And here is where the Ugly Duckling/Swan story begins to lose its voice... the ugly ducking discovering it was a Swan meant that it could now fly, swim and be its elegant self, largely for itself. What the ugly duckling was missing out on was, basically, a better life for itself. But when we acknowledge who we are in Christ, the light shines in darkness, the leaven of the kingdom penetrates the dough, and the glory of God covers the earth. When we don't, it doesn't.
That's how stark this is. We have to discover who we are.
God called Abram and said, " ...and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed"
God was the king of the nation of Israel - a pattern for all nations - but after being rejected in that role, he accepted a religious role instead. If he was able to lead the nation religiously, through establishing its laws and undergirding its institutions, he would bless the nation - again, a pattern for all nations. The church is the descendent of the Hebrew temple and its smaller, more local cousin, the synagogue. Physically it is a building, but more than that it represents a national institution that calls the nation to submit to God as it's leader, and by which God channels direction and blessings to the nation. At it's most significant, the church is a place where God can be experienced, a place where He is manifestly resident, powerfully undergirding his love and authority with a sense of awe and worship.
Protestantism is a mechanism by which the church has sought to heal itself, but cutting off and disowning those parts that have become rotten and corrupt. As the church grew ever smaller and more fractured by successive Protestant "purges", evangelical and "free" churches emerged by the same process. By now these churches had lost a sense of having a role in the nation, sniffed at titles such as Bishop and ArchBishop, and espoused a religion that was personal, a salvation that was individual, yet these churches still maintained their identity as corporate citizens within the nation, and operated within national laws. Thankfully, evangelical churches have been rediscovering a sense of responsibility for influencing national laws, for representing God's voice within the nation, for eradicating poverty locally, nationally and internationally and for promoting the worship of God in spirit and in truth. Jesus was quite comfortable with Jewish law, customs, and was a religious man like everyone else in a religious society. And so are we.
But he was more.... and so are we in Christ. Far from starting another religion, Jesus chose a secular metaphor to describe what he was initiating. He said, "I will build my ekklesia". We don't have time to explain this fully in this blog, but suffice it to say that members of Christ's ekklesia are also members of various national institutions, including churches. A mistranslation of ekklesia (ekklesia has been translated as church in most modern translations) has robbed us of an understanding of who we are in Christ. The church could also play a powerful role in training us to fulfill our role as ekklesia, if it did not think that in so doing it was referring to itself. Referring to the ekklesia, Peter writes: "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, belonging to God".
Western society is threatened by a middle eastern ideology against which it has no defences, which threatens to sweep through it and sweep away its shallow foundations. The church and other national institutions are doing their best - preaching, engaging with communities, battling to recreate a sense of ownership and belonging. Alas, a losing battle.
But where is the 'A' team? Isn't there another nation? Where is the nation that infiltrates the darkest places of the earth by loving sacrifice and conquers hearts and minds like leaven conquers dough, through irresistable rightness and discipleship like Jesus modelled it?
Is that you, ugly duckling, and do you indeed have the 'ekks' factor? Mistranslation can rob you of knowledge, maybe constrain your experience, but it can't change your nature in Christ.
Read the scriptures again, and find out about it. You'll discover that the new birth did more than you realized...