Dec 172013

bride of Christ

On my wedding day, if someone had told me that Mel was looking a bit rough I would have wanted to sock them one. I would have been fiercer still if someone had besmirched her character or told me they thought she was a rubbish person.

For the record, no such thing happened. Also for the record, she looked stunning and her character is even more stunning. I’m not claiming she’s perfect, but she sure is wonderful.

The Bride of Christ

One of the most potent images in the New Testament to describe the Church is that we are ‘the bride of Christ’. The longer I’m married, the more powerful I find that image. We are His bride. Wow!

Loved and cherished. Chosen. Bought at a price. Committed to forever. Intimately connected. Clung to with infinite faithfulness.

These are the ways in which Christ and His bride are intertwined. For many, this language is difficult because their own experiences of marriage or fidelity are very different. In fact, none of us has ever experienced a perfect marriage or a perfectly devoted spouse. But Jesus, our bridegroom, is perfect in every way and will never abandon His bride.

He knows we aren’t perfect. In fact He knows exactly how imperfect we are. But we – the bride of Christ – are not loved because we are beautiful. We are beautiful because we are loved.

Bad-mouthing Christ’s Bride

It’s very popular to criticise and speak ill of ‘the Church’, whether by knocking a certain local church (especially your own!) or by bemoaning the state of the worldwide Church. It seems an easy way to score points.

We score points with other Christians, feeling better about ourselves. We are part of the Church, but by distancing ourselves from the ‘bad bits’ (by slagging them off) we feel as though we aren’t part of the problem.

We score points with non-Christians, too. The world is pretty convinced the church is irrelevant, useless, out-of-touch, out-of-date and unjust. We talk down the Church in order to say, effectively, ‘We’re not all like that, honest.’

Church-bashing has become mainstream in the media, and it’s becoming mainstream in the Church too. Sadly, I believe this is especially true of my own generation.

I think this is troubling. There are constructive ways of talking about ourselves, the churches we’re part of and the Church we belong to and the mistakes we’ve made, but we need always to be watching our motivations and our tone.

“Don’t slag off my bride!”

In all of this, we need to remember who we’re talking about. We are talking about the bride of Christ, and it’s not our place to tell anyone their bride isn’t beautiful.

As it happens, Mel is beautiful both physically and in her character. But if she weren’t, would it actually be ok for people to go around slagging her off? And would I be out of line to be angry about that? Is it not right that I am fiercely protective of her? Of course she is imperfect, and of course I want her to grow in Christlikeness, as I do for myself as well. But does that mean it’s ok to talk her down in the meantime? No.

entry of the bride of Christ

The truth is, we don’t get to say whether the Church is worthy of Jesus. Only He does, and He has. We are worth every drop of blood He paid for us. If we weren’t, He wouldn’t have paid it. We are precious to Him. We don’t get to say the Church isn’t holy. He has made us holy and declared us holy, and now – like any good husband (or wife) – he wants us to grow into that holiness.

Is it sometimes useful to consider our failings? Of course it is. Does that sometimes mean facing and articulating hard truths? Yes. But there are ways to do things, and ways not to do things. And I don’t ever want to be guilty of insulting another man’s bride.

So, when talking about churches, when talking about the Church as a whole, I try to recall the feeling that flooded my body when I saw Mel start walking toward me down the aisle – captivated by her beauty, full of love for her – and remember that’s how Jesus sees His bride.

It makes you think twice about what you say.

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