The wedding planning had gone on for seemingly endless months, but the big day had now arrived. The bridal party paraded in to the joyous sounds of the great pipe organ that local rumors said came over on the Mayflower. The mother’s of the bride and groom sat expectantly in their seats with a tissues clinched nervously in their hands. The bride’s maids and groomsmen’s shifted nervously as the song stopped and the first few cords of Wagner’s “Bridal Chorus” began to play. The bride’s mother stood and on cue those attended rose to their feet in a wave from front to back.
The doors at the rear of the sanctuary were opened revealing the bride elegantly dressed in white on the arm of her proud father. They made their way down the center aisle, the brides’s train like a blanket of new fallen snow behind her. The people turned both their eyes and bodies to follow the movement of the pair as the massive pipes stirred the air with their celebrative sound. Everything was going precisely as planned and rehearsed. Many attendees joined with the mothers in weeping tears of joy. In the midst of the procession, the best man leaned over to the mesmerized groom and whispered, “Hey, you know we’ve been friends a long time. I love you like a brother, more than my brothers actually. I respect you, admire you, and even love you in a manly kind of way… you know what I mean… but your bride, well, she’s kind of a cow. I love you, dude, but I don’t like her AT ALL!”
Not how you expected the story to go? Seems totally rude and completely out of place, right? It would be, but the same thing happens daily. It doesn’t happen in a sanctuary of brick or stone. It happens when people confess, “I love Jesus but I don’t like His church.”
The Bible refers to the church as “the bride of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 19:7-9). Yes, I know the church is not perfect. The problem with the church is the fact that it is made up of people, but that is also the purpose of the church. We are imperfect people gathered together to display the grace of God! We testify to God’s grace in that He has included us; we are “accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). We also testify to His grace in how we respond to one another. There are 59 “one another” verses in the New Testament that help us understand how we are to live and love together. Here are just a couple:
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
If you were to finish the wedding story above, you might have the groom decking the best man before the bride every arrived at her designated spot. He’d deserve it, for sure. Imagine how Jesus must feel when His bride is criticized, run down, smeared and dismissed. He cannot be happy about it. I’m not saying He’s pleased with the abuse, the condemnation, and the worldliness that is displayed far to often by church people, nor am I saying that the people who practice such behaviors should be allowed to go on abusing, condemning and being worldly. Jesus told His people how to discipline wayward members and expects them to do so. I am saying, however, that with all it’s warts and flaws, the church remains the bride of Christ and we should be wary of calling her a cow – because that is not what Jesus sees when He looks at her.
For those of you who have been hurt by church people, I am deeply sorry. That is not God’s design or His desire. For those of you who have been disappointed by church people, you’re in a pretty big boat and I’m right there with you. Being disappointed, however, is part of life and is no excuse to abandon the bride of Christ. For those of you who feel that church is irrelevant, outdated, and narrow-minded, in some ways you may be right. But instead of simply disregarding the church and relegating the bride of Christ to “unworthy of your time and attention” status, please understand that church is Jesus idea. He is building His church. He died on behalf of His church. Dare we dismiss Jesus’ church simply because it does not always suit our tastes or satisfy our expectations?
Bring your imperfections and join the rest of us as we journey down the aisle to meet our Bridegroom. Let the joy from His face purify us as we draw nearer and nearer to Him. We may not look like much to the world, but to Jesus we are His precious bride.