Weddings are all about the bride. Can you imagine what people would say if they attended a wedding and the bride was already at the altar waiting for her groom to enter the room? What if he walked in to the Rocky theme song, shuffling his feet and jabbing the air? Outside of a few snickers and nervous laughs most people in the room would certainly view the groom as the most arrogant, self-centered human being on earth.
But things are different for the bride. Her groom and his entourage enter the room to wait for her arrival. She is preceded by a court of maidens, a maid of honor, a ring bearer and one of two flower girls who adorn her path with petals. The music pauses, the wedding march begins, people rise and the bride walks in. No one thinks badly of her for being the center of attention. It is, after all, her day.
Yet, our willingness to indulge others is limited. If the preacher made an announcement that the bride had a spa appointment, and was therefore unable to greet her guests, people would be disappointed. Some would be downright angry. Why? Because, even though the bride is honored on her wedding day, it is also hoped she will acknowledge those who have made sacrifices on her behalf. It is important that she realize her radiance is a reflection of everyone who has invested in her life.
In the same way, when Christ’s Bride believes herself to be above a broken and sinful world, she is ignoring the role of grace as it relates to her very existence. When Jesus sent the Twelve on an outreach mission He said, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8). When Peter and John met a lame man and the man asked them for money Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you” (Acts 3:6). The attitude Christ wants His Bride to have toward the world is simple: “the grace we have received we pass on to you.”
There are many ways the church can stand aloof. She may not even be aware of the vibe she is sending to the non-believing community. For example, a church can create its own culture where members’ entire lives revolve around church activities. Few people would criticize someone who wants to spend all of his time with Christians, studying God’s Word, listening to Christian music, attending Christian conferences and playing in church sports leagues. I have personally promoted these kinds of healthy opportunities where believers can grow in truth and love. I still encourage them.
But if we spend all of our time around Christians, how are we supposed to pass on what has been given? If we define ministry as “church sponsored” (in the institutional sense of the word) how will those who don’t know Jesus ever known grace?
My heroes are the believers who administer God’s love to people who don’t have the resources to participate in the stream of church culture. They visit local jails, volunteer at schools and hospitals, and take underprivileged kids shopping for winter clothes. They aren’t frightened by poor morals, obscene language and addictions. Instead, they are drawn to places where they think grace can make a difference.