On July 6th I was the bride. They let me sleep in late. I had special time with my parents. Friends brought me plates of food and ran to the store just to get more hairspray. I was waited upon hand and foot with so much care while I waited to be united with my groom.
Brides are beheld with honor, and it made me start thinking about the beauty of the symbolism. How are we preparing the bride of the Lamb of God? Do we behold her with respect and grace as she awaits the return of the Bridegroom?
Have you noticed that sometimes the church is FAR from talked about like her wedding day is approaching? Church splits. Negative experiences. Hypocrisy. Controversy. Lifelong grudges . . . all of this simmers on our tongues and is used as sad material for memoirs, headlines, podcasts and conversations.
Because someone sitting in another pew or a spiritual leader did something disagreeable, some choose to drag the Bride’s name in the dirt. The heartbreaking reality is that as a result some forsake church attendance altogether.
We need to know that, even though all creation groans (Romans 8:22), and despite the mess and mistakes, the story isn’t over. Look at what He is doing with his bride!
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.Ephesians 5:25-26
Why am I talking about this subject? I’m just one of His sheep, who by grace, loves going to church every Sunday (most of the time). Sometimes I don’t feel like it but I have tasted the rewards of showing up anyways. He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). Attending church is a gift of grace, obedience, and love.
Because of these truths, I have an inching-in-growth passion for Christ’s bride. I’ve both cried for God’s people and rejoiced. I’ve both labored in love and have been disappointed. Seen abounding fruit and dry spells in the local Bodies I’ve attended. Of course, we aren’t to elevate the church above Christ or idolize her, but I cherish this Body that I’ve been born again into.
Thankfully, my experience has been that God’s people are gracious like He is, and they’ve helped me through even the darkest parts of my life. I wish this could be your story too, and if it’s not, please don’t give up on God OR His church! Remember it is Christ who wills and works in His people for His good pleasure. We are God’s ambassadors, that many may be reconciled to Him.
This is my prayer and plea for us:
If a church member has hurt you, don’t give up on God! His people can be inconsistent but HE never changes and neither does His Word.
Have you heard the term “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater?” If someone who wasn’t acting like a believer has scarred you, it’s not worth it to abandon God altogether. What will the whole world give you if you lose your own soul (Matt 16:26)?
Many people who claim to be believers loathe the places that claim to be the church because of personal offenses. We’ve all had our feelings hurt by well-meaning (or not well-meaning) comments. But how foolish is it to throw God out of your life along with the “bathwater” of things that aren’t eternal?
I realize there are also serious wrongs committed within foyers. But God is the God of restoration, forgiveness and kindness. He is also the God of justice, holiness and power. Don’t forsake Him for ANY reason! It’s not worth the price of your own soul. He’s not finished working in His Bride, either.
If a church member has hurt you, don’t hurt the church.
The realities of hurt experienced inside the church’s doors are heart-piercing. But it doesn’t give us the right to slander the Lamb’s bride. It doesn’t give us a free pass to bitterness.
I can agree 100% that Christ’s redeemed believers DON’T always act in obedience. I know because I’m one of them. We all need loads of grace.
Whenever we say these words “the church” I believe we should say them with reverence because it’s not just a club or gathering. It’s even more than just a family.
The church is Christ’s body, and He is the head.
So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.Romans 12:5
According to this metaphor, we are hurting part of Christ’s body — His eyes, His hands, His feet — when we dishonor her. When one member suffers, we all suffer just as you suffer when you hurt your hand or foot (1 Corinthians 12:26).
So instead of slandering the splendorous bride, what should we do?
If a church member has hurt you, BUILD up the church even more.
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.Hebrews 10:23-24
Find a body of believers who truly put themselves under the authority of God’s Word. Find a church whose mission is to present you blameless before Christ. Find a church who understands Christ’s heart for His bride. Then don’t neglect meeting with them and encourage them, stirring up love and good works.
Revelation 21 paints a beautiful picture of a future day when all that’s old will pass away, and we’ll be forever with Him (go read it — it’s glorious!)
But in the meantime, while we wait on this groaning planet for His return, let’s purpose to build up the church — speak well of her and serve her. Kristin Tabb said it well, “Our commitment to the bride is a statement about the worth of the Bridegroom.”
How beautiful the radiant Bride
who waits for her Groom
with His light in her eyes.
How beautiful when humble hearts give
the fruit of pure lives
so that others may live.
…how beautiful is the body of Christ.
How beautiful the feet that bring
the sound of good news
and the love of the King.
How beautiful the hands that serve
the wine and the bread
and the sons of the earth.
…how beautiful is the body of Christ.
–How Beautiful, Twila Paris
Other posts in this series: Five Prayers for the Drive to Church