More Than the Hall of Justice

On Saturday Mornings in the 1980s, I used to watch the Super Friends starring the Justice League of America versus the Legion of Doom.  Flash, Green Lantern, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and other awesome superheroes would go around the world saving the day.  

The thing I loved most about the Justice League was their headquarters, the Hall of Justice. Many of the episodes would begin with the Justice League receiving a distress call at the hall.  They would conclude with some witty moral statement by one of the Justice League members, usually Batman, back at the hall.  Everything centered around The Hall of Justice.

My mom and dad even bought me a Hall of Justice toy and Justice League action figures.  After that, I could conveniently reenact tales of great superheroics where the Justice League of America would stop the evil plans of the Legion of Doom. Those action figures would even take baths with me. Those were good times. I would pretend, like in some of the episodes I saw on TV, that the bad guys would come in and take over the Hall of Justice.  In the end, the good guys always won or the bad guy turned good.

As we grow up, we put away our Halls of Justice. We put our toys in the closet and move on, and our eyes are opened to viciousness of reality.  We see that bad guys do win at times only to die in their expansive mansions built off the hard work of others. We see that crooks, who are smart with the law, can be corrupt but get off Scot free. We imagine that our reality could use a good dose of the Justice League and the Hall of Justice.

Our desire for something better causes some of us to keep pretending.  We like to pretend that the church building is some religious Hall of Justice. When in actuality, the building is only a tool. Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman were heroes whether or not they had the Hall of Justice. When they saw someone hurting, they would help. When they saw evil taking over, they would stand up for what is right. 

We need to realize that there is a Church whether or not there is a church building. Those of us who have surrendered our lives to Jesus, live in relationship with one another, and long to bring God’s reality into our reality are the Church. If a storm came into town next week and destroyed our church buildings, as we have seen happen throughout this nation this year, we would still have the Church. We would just no longer have church buildings. That’s a huge difference. One that we would benefit to realize without the destruction of our church building.

When we realize that the building is only a tool, it should help us to bring about God’s will in our lives and in our communities. If our building is not doing that, it should be discarded or reinvented. My father-in-law collects a lot of old tools. Many of the tools have been supplanted by tools that are more useful at getting the job done faster and more accurately. Other old tools stand the test of time. When a tool loses its usefulness, we replace it. It’s almost too obvious to write, but a tool is only as useful as its usefulness.

So what makes the church building a useful tool? If it is not being used as a missions center, then it is not a useful tool. If we are too worried about it looking spotless that we cannot use it to love the poor, then we have fallen in love with the tool rather than its intended purpose. If we spend all of our finances on the tool rather than on its purpose, then it has become an idol.  If we think that going and looking at the tool is our purpose, then we have lost our focus on Jesus. We need to never keep a tool after it has lost its usefulness, even if the nostalgia of the tool makes us more comfortable.  That’s not the purpose of a tool. A tool’s purpose is to help get a job done.

Church is not a building.  It is not a Sunday service.  If you took those things away, would you still be part of a church?  Or would your church experience disappear? If it would disappear, then the stark reality of your church life is that you are not currently part of the Church. You are just part of a social, or anti-social, meeting that happens on Sunday mornings. You are just going to church when God wants you to be the Church. God has so much more in store for you. May you find the strength to go after His will. The world would benefit from a Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman, but they are just pretend. It is time to stop pretending. What the world really needs is you, empowered by the grace of God through Jesus. That is the tool that will make a difference.