Wednesday, May 20, 2009


One of the oddest sayings of Jesus is, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will gather” (Luke 17:37b). In context, Jesus is teaching his disciples about the Day of Judgment, with the refrain, “one will be taken, and the other left.” When he finishes his teaching his disciples ask, “Where, Lord?” Jesus answers with the enigmatic, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will gather.”

Umm…what does that mean? Well, I don’t know, but here’s a thought. If “the body” refers to the Church, the Body of Christ, then in this world it will always be assailed by vultures, right up to the Day of Judgment. On that day, “one will be taken, the other left,” but until that day, the Church will be under attack. And so it has been and is. The Church militant, the Church on earth, almost always “gasping for life” in a hostile world, will be surrounded by the harbingers of death, eager to rip its carcass.

It’s not a negative attitude. On the contrary, when the Church is under attack we can be pretty certain that we’re doing something important, something effective, something that bothers the attackers. The pattern is so remarkably obvious throughout Scripture and history that the wonder is not that it is so, but that the attackers just don’t get it. “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”, etc. etc.

During the Sudanese war (1983-2005), when government troops tried to eradicate the Christians in the south, they displaced over four million people and killed more than two million others—over a million of them Christians. And during this time, the Church grew seventeen-fold! —from 5% to 85% of the population. “Way to go, persecutors! Thanks for furthering our evangelism, as you dumbheads always have.” Okay, okay, “love your enemies” and so forth, but loving them doesn’t make them any the less dumbheads.

A few people have mentioned to me recently that they are alarmed to learn that evil has entered the Church. My answer: Duh. The household of God is always under attack. The list of examples in Scripture is too long to put into a blogpost, not to mention the list of examples from the time of the Ascension, forward. The New Testament is full of conflict bent upon the Church, from inside it as well as from outside. “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” said Jesus.

I think it’s pretty cool that when Jesus said, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it”, it implies that it is hell’s gates that are being assailed by the Church, and not the Church being assailed by the minions of hell.

1 comment:

Wesley said...

Perhaps it is the growing sense of Catholicity that has lead the Devil to try and destroy the Anglican Communion either though heresy or schism?