At the risk of sounding paranoid, I feel a need to mention there is an obvious darker side to the way the church is portrayed by society. While the gospel sounds like a very positive thing to those of us who have put our faith in Jesus, it is not such welcomed news to those whose way of life is threatened by religious people. This was the case in the first church when silversmiths like Demetrius tried to destroy the Apostle Paul for undermining their idol craft business (Acts 19:24-28). I am not suggesting unbelievers are consciously involved in a concerted effort to discredit the church. On the contrary, people who have a secular worldview usually value the good in everyone, and try to be fair in their depiction of people with whom they disagree including Christians.
I merely reference this dynamic to remind us how important it is not to fall into the ironic habit of bashing Christ’s Bride. We might sound enlightened when we do so, when in fact we are mistaken. The church represents Christ in beautiful fashion, and deserves better.
Since I am a preacher I am often around the church building during the weekend leading up to a wedding, and have an opportunity to share in the excitement of those who have come to celebrate. I have noticed, when a group of bridesmaids and a bride are busy preparing flower arrangements, or decorating a wedding venue, it is hard to pick out the bride. Of course, I usually know who she is because I am performing the ceremony, but there is nothing about her that stands out, except for the obvious joy in her step.
But when the wedding begins, everything changes. When the bride is escorted through the door, everyone knows who she is, and why she is there. In fact, her friends and family members have taken special care not to upstage her, and to present her to everyone in attendance as the most glorious bride ever.
I believe it is time for Christians to stand down from their self-effacement, and give the Bride of Christ her due. Has she missed the mark of her mission at times? No doubt about it. Have some of her representatives embarrassed her and brought shame to the kingdom. Absolutely! But, in our desire to be real with others, we shouldn’t miss an important truth: there is nothing on earth as beautiful as the church; nothing!
It is time to spend some time thinking about how we treat the church and what we say about her when we are in the presence of others. We need to save her from those who use her weaknesses as a convenient excuse to go on sinning. In short, we need to live to make her glorious. After all, if the people who love the church and are spiritually woven into her being don’t praise her, who will?