Abuse and Hope: The Bride of Christ as Fire Ants
1 Kings 19:9-10 ESV (9) There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (10) He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away…. 19:18 ESV (18) Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
In these days it is easy for Christians to become Elijahs, thinking that we are the only ones left who are faithful to the Lord, that soon there will be none left as the enemies of Christ seem to be so successful at eradicating faith from the earth. We have had many discussions on this blog about this very subject. The leaven of the Pharisees appears to have spread like a plague through the churches. Many of our readers who have been treated so miserably by their pastors and churches find themselves “outside the camp” and so traumatized that they are unable to return to a local church. They don’t want this to be so. At least, that is my take on it. They would love to be in a real church where Christ’s people have heeded the Lord Jesus’ words to go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. But, alas, where is such a church to be found?
Well, in all of this we must not despair. Christ loves His Bride. The Body of Christ survives today and always will. God has always preserved His remnant and indeed it is the remnant, as it turns out, that is the true church anyway!
Romans 9:25-27 ESV (25) As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.'” (26) “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.'” (27) And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved,
The true church of the Lord Jesus Christ is a church that we can all love. It is here and it is there. It exists, very often, within a visible and local church. At other times it has been cast out of the visible temple by the Pharisees, but it is always there. And, like “birds of a feather,” its members inevitably and through all kinds of means find one another.
Yesterday my wife and I watched a documentary on fire ants. One of the reasons that fire ants have survived every kind of poison and eradication campaign man and nature have launched at them is that they are able to form living “rafts.” Mechanical engineers have studied them and have learned that when, for example, a flood comes along and wipes out their anthill home, these little pests are able to hook themselves together at eight different points on their bodies. The resulting mass of fire ants functions then like a kind of “textile” woven together. You can pick it up (with gloves) and it acts like a woven piece of material in a mat! But that’s not all. You can form it into a ball that you can play catch with (if you are one of those eccentric mad scientists), and if you force it through a tube it “flows” out like a kind of viscous liquid! And all because fire ants recognize one another and latch onto one another for the good of the “body.”
The true people of Christ are like fire ants in this respect. They recognize the fragrance of one another’s “pheromes” (a fragrance leading to life), even though to the world’s senses they stink like a rotting corpse. They grab onto one another and in the end, this world simply can never eliminate them. Never.
So when we speak of the sins of the “church,” and of how badly the “church” treats abuse victims and of how pharisaical the “church” is in so many cases to day, let’s also remind ourselves of just what “church” we are talking about. We mean the visible church, not the true Bride of Christ. Local, visible churches can become so corrupt that they actually become “synagogues of Satan” as Scripture and our confessions of faith declare. From such places we withdraw.
But we must never give up as Elijah almost did and be duped by the enemy into thinking that “we alone are left.” We are not. Christ always preserves His remnant and nothing can snatch them out of His hand. Nothing.
By the way, as fire ants, our stinger is the Word of God enlivened by the Holy Spirit. Those little fire ants can bring down a bear! And by the power of Christ, we can bring down a roaring lion.