Paris and the Church
In a marvelous book entitled "How Paris Became Paris" by author Joan DeJean, the author explains the unique concept that guided the building and development of the enchanting city of Paris. Briefly stated, Mrs. DeJean explains that Paris was not conceived as a city with great individual attractions but rather as a place where the city itself would be the attraction. The idea here was that the streets and boulevards as well as the buildings and bridges that were standard utilitarian fare in other cities would themselves echo the spirit of creativity and "joie de vivre" for all who would live, work, or visit the City of Lights!
This fascinating concept is also true of the Church. Yes, you have read correctly, the glorious Church of Christ is very much like the city of Paris in this regard since it was designed by God to be the attraction for a lost world. The Bible refers to it as a city on a hill (Matthew 5:14), a bride (Revelation 21:10) and a city descending from heaven (Revelation 21:2), because the Church itself was to be the main spiritual attraction inviting all to dwell in its spiritual beauty and eternal security.
Unfortunately, we often try to "improve" the body of Christ by adding attractions that will draw visitors. Things like a shiny new parking lot or a youth wing on our building, even a dynamic speaker to fill our pulpit. However, just like Paris, the city of love where couples stroll the intimate streets lined with cafés making lifetime memories in the city that sparked their youthful romance, the Church is where sinners first hear the siren song of God's love for them in the gospel. From this moment on, the church is the body of souls that surrounds the Christian with God's love through fellowship, service, worship and an ever-deepening sense of God's reality and power through the sharing of His Word.
New stripes in the parking lot and fresh paint on the walls – even a new leader full of energy and ideas are exciting (like the Eiffel Tower when it lights up at night). However, the enchantment of Paris much like the comfort of the Lord's Church is not caught up in the attractions each offers (i.e., nobody chooses to live in Paris because the Eiffel Tower is there).
No, the city grows on you because every simple element has been designed to charm and delight. In the same way, no one stays with the Church because of convenient parking. However, when the greeter runs out of the building into the parking lot with an umbrella to walk you in from the rain, or an elder weeps when he prays for a member who is at death's door, and you see the faces of spiritual men and women with whom you share a journey to another home of eternal rest, you realize that being a part of the body is the attraction that really matters. Only the evil one measures value in earthly things. He doesn't know the joy of belonging to the Body.
Surely there are slum areas in Paris which belie the image that the city fathers strive to cultivate – no city is without its blemishes. So too, the Church has its weaknesses displayed in the various failings of its members, much to the chagrin of the heavenly Father. However, there are constant reminders that the Church is not in its final form – unlike Paris which will always be Paris.
The Church, on the other hand, is awaiting its final transformation which will take place when Jesus returns. With all due respect to Paris, it is the Church that will become eternal, not the lovely city in France. When this happens, the final attraction will be the transformation of the Church into a "glorious" place because Jesus Christ will be in and among her and the Church will not only be a wonderful place to be – it will become the only place to be throughout eternity.