“Sitting in the garage won’t make you a car,
and going to church won’t make you a Christian.”
This is a popular quote I’ve seen posted all over facebook and used in different devotionals lately. I tried to track down who originally said it, but it was attributed to so many people I wasn’t comfortable assigning an author. So give credit to whomever it was you heard it from first and know that it did not originate in the mind of Marilyn Biddinger. I’m not that clever.
As clever as it is, there’s something about those words that have made my heart a little uncomfortable each time I have read it. I think I get the point —simply parking in a pew will not transform you into something you are not. But I sometimes wonder if as the Body, in a very sincere and good-hearted effort to distance ourselves from empty religion, we’ve gone too far and cast the meeting together of the Body of Christ as an unnecessary part of Kingdom life. An optional part of our relationship with Jesus. If we have, we’ve unintentionally done ourselves and a watching world a huge disservice.
Please don’t hear me promoting empty church attendance as a way of doing life with our Savior. But . . . the person sitting in that pew is much more likely to hear the Truth preached there than sitting on their couch every Sunday. And since it is the Word of God that comes with the promise (Isaiah 55:11) it seems to me that we should encourage them to come park in that pew and find a little shelter from the elements outside any day of the week. And, at what other time will a person who just wants to be good for goodness sake or do the right thing because it’s just the right thing to do, have a chance to be loved on by so many who have LOVE living inside them.
Doing life with the family of God, even though it can be a messy business, is absolutely essential to having a full and complete relationship with Jesus. It’s where we have the opportunity to live life the most excellent way and where the world sees believers do life differently. If it wasn’t essential why would the Apostle Paul tell us not to give up meeting with one another as some have done and why would the New Testament spend so much time telling us how to relate to one another.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,
not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some,
but encouraging one another,
and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. John 13:34
Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty (snobbish, high-minded, exclusive), but readily adjust yourself to [people, things] and give yourselves to humble tasks. Never overestimate yourself or be wise in your own conceits. Romans 12:16 (Sometimes I just have to go with the Amplified because it drives it home and leaves me no wiggle room.)
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2
These are just a few of the one anothers. And guess what? To do the “one anothers” there has to be others. It’s the others that God often uses to change and refine us.
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
It’s true that sitting in the garage won’t make you a car. It won’t make you a car because that wasn’t what you were created to be. I don’t think even a car would be content with just sitting in the garage all the time if it could choose. And if it could talk, I think it might say something like “Hey, put some fuel in my tank, put the top down, let’s go for a drive.” That car would be itching to fulfill its purpose. Never leaving the garage wouldn’t even be an option. It would ache to get out on the open road and do what it was made to do. So while the purpose of that car is life on the open road, running 24/7 without coming back to the garage for a little rest and respite just isn’t going to cut it. The road grime would build-up, the windshield would be smeared, and the fuel gauge would soon hit empty. Balance is required for that car to do its job. Even though it rightfully calls that garage home, it simply can’t do what it was it was created to do if it spends all its time just sitting there. But . . . it can’t fulfill its purpose if it spends all its time on the road either.
Isn’t it the same for we who are called to be members of the Body of Christ? You were created to complete the Body, to edify the Body, to encourage the Body and they were created to do the same for you.
For as in one body we have many members,
and the members do not all have the same function,
so we, though many, are one body in Christ,
and individually members one of another.
We need one another to wipe away the road grime, help clean the windshield, and fill our tanks. It’s what we were created to do – love one another. Sometimes it’s good to be on the road alone and just let the Spirit blow your hair back. Other times, you need to look over and see another driver headed the same direction. It encourages the heart and spurs the soul to know we aren’t alone. God gives us other road warriors to strengthen us and help us navigate all the twists and turns life throws at us. We can’t dismiss the benefits of fellowship and meeting with the body of Christ. The Truth won’t allows us to. Sisters, if we do we will miss out on the fullness of the abundant life God has planned for us. And so will those who long to see us. I’m speaking from experience on this one. Brett and I haven’t had the opportunity to physically enter our Church and worship with our Body in over a year. As much as we enjoy having Believers here in our home, there’s just nothing like joining together with hands raised high and coming before the Throne with one voice.
And as for the one who pulls into their appointed parking space each Sunday . . . Well, do you remember the last time you met a whole slew of cars on their way to a classic car show? The smile just creeps across your face as you meet car after car. Shined and polished. Buffed and beautiful. You get all anxious waiting to see what the next one might look like and you start chatting with everyone else in the car about how awesome all those cars are as they keep rolling past you. Even if you aren’t a car enthusiast, there’s just something about seeing those cars, one right after another, that grabs your attention. And when they arrive at their destination and they’re all lined up for the world to see, it is simply spectacular.
Spend a few minutes wandering among those beauties and you’ll soon be hearing story after story from their owners. “Yeah, she was a wreck when I got her, but look at her now!” “You wouldn’t have believed the shape she was in!” Pretty soon your attention isn’t on the car anymore. Nope. Pretty soon, your focus is on the owner. The one who poured all those blood, sweat, and tears into making that car what is today. Same for us.
When Love congregates all in one place, it grabs people’s attention. When we share the truth of the wrecks we were and let the Glory of the One who poured His Blood, Sweat, and Tears into us do the talking – well, Girlfriend, we are beautiful. So you pull out onto that highway with the top down and the engine roaring the Good News, but don’t you forget that time in the garage is necessary. And Sister, when we all line up, shined and polished, doing what we were created to do – we are absolutely spectacular.