Sailing ships, treasure, and the sea hold a special fascination for me. If you take National Geographic Magazine you have probably noticed the articles about ancient wrecks. Explorers and treasure-hunters discover them. Archaeologists painstakingly salvage their treasure and artifacts. It doesn’t seem to matter how old the shipwreck, if anything was on board that didn’t rot, it is still there, waiting to be found. Usually, the sea takes its toll over the years. Corrosion and the crust of barnacles and coral rime old cannons, bottles, eating utensils, amphorae, and other objects.
To appreciate the original beauty, skillful hands must gently chip away the crust of the ages once again exposing the objects as the artist or artisan created them. I use “gently” on purpose. Men with bulldozers and jackhammers have destroyed some wonderful archaeological treasures. You don’t treat treasure roughly! You treat it with respect. You remove the layers only as fast and forcibly as the object will stand without shattering or crumbling in your hands.
The church that Jesus built (Matthew 16:18) is a treasure! Tragically, some modern organizations referred to as His church bear little resemblance to the original. In two thousand years, the corrosion and crust of human doctrines and traditions cover the beauty of the original object. On the surface we see accumulated layers obscuring the beauty underneath. No true archaeologist mistakes the surface as the true object. He knows that truth is beneath the surface. It’s not easy to get to the true treasure! It requires great skill and steady, patient hands. If we wish to see the beauty of the church as Christ built it, we must gently clean away the layers left by the passing ages until we see the original form. Our enemy is the love of institutions that overwhelms truth – truth that slaps us in the face.
To find the essence of Christianity, combine its triumphs: the elevation of women, hospitals, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked with the tragedies perpetrated in the name of Christianity: the mistakes, the wars, executions, tortures, the neglected mission. Put the mess in a kettle, attach a condenser leading to a flask. Boil off the essence to condense into a flask of purity which will fill with truth.
This is what we mean by “restoration.” As Christians only, we believe God added us to that original, simple, beautiful, and pure church of Christ (Acts 2:47). We endeavor to get to the original beauty of the church as Jesus crafted it. We plead with those who love Jesus and His church to help us carefully chip away at the traditions and doctrines of men concealing the original object. Then we will again see the opus of the Master in its original, pristine beauty.