It was December 8, 2007.
I stood waiting in front of the auditorium; my heart beating as though I’d just finished a hundred-yard dash. The music soars, the double doors in the back of the sanctuary swing open, necks crane and like a well-trained church choir, in unison the congregation rises. I catch a glimpse of white and start to smile, and then start to cry.
There she is—my new bride.
My moving and magical moment hints at the same passion Christ has for His bride. But for many, the idea of the church being a bride is a hard one to grasp—primarily for two reasons.
The first is because of her ongoing ugliness.
As one author writes, “More people have been brought into the church by the kindness of real Christian love than by all the theological arguments in the world; and more people have been driven from the church by the hardness and ugliness of so-called Christianity than by all the doubts in the world.”
Homer Simpson’s interaction with his Christian-fundamentalist neighbors, who’ve been away for a week, is more true than we’d like to admit. Homer sees his neighbors unloading their van in the driveway, hurries outside and rudely asks, “Hey, where the hell have you guys been all week?” His neighbor replies, “We went away to a Christian camp. We were learning how to be more judgmental!” (I’ll admit it, I’ve attended that camp and know several others who’ve been well trained there!)
The second is because of her ongoing adultery.
Many years ago a close friend – one of the godliest women I’ve ever known – had a dream in which she was in bed with a well-known Hollywood leading man. In her dream, although still fully clothed, she was fondling his face while lustfully looking into his eyes. When she awoke, she easily understood what her dream meant. The church had left her first love and was once again, being seduced by another lover.
I’m told if you visit the Galleria dell’ Accadèmia in Florence Italy, you’ll find Michelangelo’s masterpiece, the statue of David, standing next to four unfinished marble statues of slaves. One writer uses this picture as an example of what the church currently looks like compared to what she will one day become. He writes:
The church is something like the four unfinished marble statues of slaves the sculptor Michelangelo began in sixteenth – century Florence. The characters cry to be released from their prison of roughhewn stone, but the vision of what they were to become died with the artist. Those crude and ghostly shapes will never know the perfection of Michelangelo’s greatest work, David…the perfect and the imperfect stand in stark contrast.
The church, while imperfect and incomplete, is still being shaped by its living Master, Jesus Christ. This same Lord has promised that one day He will present His bride, ‘as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless’ (Ephesians 5:27). En route to the final consummation of the age, the church lives as a prisoner of hope, expecting the return of Jesus Christ.”
No, it doesn’t excuse our ugliness or our adultery, but the imagery of the church as Christ’s bride does provide us with a picture of what the church could be and what the church one day will be.
- Does the church need restoration and renewal? Yes.
- Is she going through a time of reformation? Yes.
- Has she done some really reprehensible and insanely stupid things? Yes.
So, I’m not suggesting we turn a blind eye to areas that need correcting; nor sit by while corruption and compromise continues. And I’m certainly not suggesting we give up on the church or give in to a fatalistic future of the church.
But what I am suggesting is that God loves his bride—warts and all—and we must do the same. I do. How about you?
Ken L Roberts
What’s your view of the church? Love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment.