We all know that one couple: one of them is a dear friend, we know them well and treasure the time we spend with them; the other is, well, not exactly our favorite person. I am sure I have been that half for some people—that’s okay, they have some friends struggling with their spouses’ choice too.
Many in our world today feel this way about the Church. They love Jesus, but struggle with His bride. There seems to be a glaring disconnect: how did He end up with her, what was He thinking? The Church is an easy target and often paints a bull’s-eye on herself. Some of the attitudes and behaviors of Jesus’ chosen spouse are astounding, inexcusable.
“She said and did what? And she is married to Him?”
Pick your favorite and convenient local church horror story. Does it involve an abusive pastor, fickle so-called friends, gossip, closed cliques, abused pastors, or wrongly judged and mistreated preachers’ kids and spouses? Maybe your church story’s main character is a hypocritical deacon, or a Holy Joe that lived like the devil. Is money involved or improprieties of a thousand different kinds?
We are all broken. Yes, His bride should blush and tear her wedding gown in repentance over her sinfulness. But this is not news. Most of the New Testament is written to help Christ’s bride learn to be beautiful. The letters of the New Testament —epistles if you like church talk—are filled with correctives. This Fair Lady needs much learnin’ and refining.
Jesus’s life on earth
Jesus’ earthly father handed off a trade to his son: carpentry. This included wood and stone construction. He learned the hard, honest trade of building. According to Matthew 16:17-18, Jesus is still doing construction:
“Jesus replied, ‘…And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.’”
Using those who know Him, He is erecting, correcting, and perfecting a spiritual house (Eph 4:11-16; 1 Pet 2).
Imperfect bride, perfect groom
Can the church do better? No doubt. But if Jesus says He is in love with His bride—He did die for her—then who are we to demand perfection this side of heaven? We are not promised a pure, spotless, wrinkle-free Bride until we get to heaven (Eph 5:25-33).
Yes, you got hurt one time, or several times. Jesus understands. He let his future bride nail Him to a cross. Fleeing abuse does not warrant a final relational break with His Bride.
Yes, speak prophetically to her of her sins, but not merely pathetically of her in your bitterness.
If you trash talk to my wife or tell me you hate her, we are going to have issues. She is mine, I am hers, we are one. To try to separate us, to get me to side with you instead of her is unwise. I would give my life to protect my wife. And Scripture makes beautifully clear how far Jesus, the perfect Husband to His Bride, will go for those He loves (Rom 5:6-11; Eph 5).
We can’t give up on Jesus’s method
Jesus the carpenter is still building: creating, enlarging and putting finishing touches on His Church. Rumors of His bride’s death are greatly exaggerated. Hell’s gates may look stronger and seem more daunting, but not to the One who already defeated them.
Christ has not given up on His church and neither must we. It is not an option. To stay outside the church is to stay away from Jesus. Picking and choosing how we are accountable is a dangerous place to be (1 Peter 5).
Jesus is forming and fortifying Himself a people. He is using and empowering those who know Him and confess Him in truth. Build with Him! Use the tools and resources He has given you and edify others in the Forever Family. Allow them to work on you too. (Matt 16:13-23; Eph 4:11-16; Heb 10:24, 25; Acts 2:42).
Do we look like Him?
How can we, His apprentices, build and behave more like our Master? We can start by living “in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:1-3, ESV).
Track down Scripture's reciprocal commands, the “one another's,” and ramp up your attention and obedience to them—intentionally pursue ways to tangibly love others, praying for them, serving and encouraging them. Think more highly of others, protect and even defending your brothers and sisters in Christ. Use social media to remind others to do the same. Make practical plans to stir each other to greater love and more good deeds (Heb 10:24, 25; Titus 3:8).
What if we, Christians, were known for our forgiveness, kindness, purity, patience, generosity and forbearance above all else? A radiant Bride indeed!
As followers of Jesus, we should seek to minimize the world’s ability to find fault with the Bride. Not ignoring things that are rebukable but calling out the commendable. Reconstructing fallen areas, replacing the rotted, reinforcing what’s right. It must begin by being that kind of apprentice ourselves.
As the phrase goes, “Any old jackass can kick down a barn.” But it takes real strength, courage, and trust to stick it out for the long haul. Get on His winning team! Christ’s church, His called-out ones, cannot be stopped (1 Pet 2:4-8; Rom 8). When we keep Christ as the chief cornerstone, building on Him, look out hell.
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