That His Bride Be Honest
With an adequate credit line and some help from a coordinator a father can provide a beautiful wedding ceremony. But only the bride can bring a transparent relationship with God that reveals both external and internal beauty.
When we meet a bride with these qualities we say she has “poise.” She is confident in herself and the days ahead. Others admire her because she isn’t shaken by difficult circumstances, and though capable of carrying her own burdens, she is also willing to carry the burdens of others.
Similarly, when the Bride of Christ is at her best she moves with splendor as she stands in grace. She doesn’t shrink from trouble, or the spiritual battles of this world because she has acknowledged her sin, embraced the glory of the cross, and opened her heart to the transforming work of Holy Spirit. She is not arrogance since she knows her radiance is imputed, not earned, and she shares what she has been given freely with her world (Matthew 10:8).
The kind of honesty the Lord seeks for His Bride is both quantitative and a qualitative. Recently I sampled some cupcakes baked fresh by a wedding caterer. My criteria were simple: did they contain the ingredients as advertised and were they any good? Unfortunately, due to the critical nature of my mission I was pressed into eating four different kinds of cupcakes. I am happy to report all of them passed the test, down to the last bite of cookies and cream.
It is common for people to say they want to worship with “authentic” Christians, listen to a preacher who is “real” and leave with something “practical.” First-time guests in our congregation have told me, “Your church family is so genuine. I can feel it!” I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but I take these kinds of compliments with a grain of salt. Certainly, we must be doing something right for people to feel this way, but in my heart I know authenticity is more than a good first impression. Baking four delicious promotional cupcakes is one thing. Creating several hundred is another. Coming through when the oven quits and the delivery truck breaks down shows character.
Some believers think the church has lost its genuine nature. They point to modern innovations and believe we have replaced the simplicity of faith with a “show.” But allow me to share some truth. I have been in the church environment all of my life and have lived through countless transitions in methodology in congregations of many sizes. Showmanship is nothing new. In the days when churches hosted weekly revival meetings they could choose from a plethora of traveling Christian entertainers. There were gospel quartets, preachers who sang their sermons at the piano, artists who shared the gospel with chalk, midgets, weight lifters and movie stars. We put up posters around town, hung a banner on the church building and asked our members to “fill a pew”. Oh, and we gave prizes to the “winners.”
Putting on a “show” is not necessarily a sin if we are just trying to illustrate something in a way that will capture people’s attention. But the church that remains is the one people are drawn to after the show is over. It is the place they go for love, encouragement and truth in the changing seasons of life. Honest churches never get caught up in accolades, but rather burn with a desire to share Jesus with the world.
Honesty is a tricky attribute since the prophet Jeremiah reminds us, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) I get amused when churches advertise their worship to be “authentic.” Is it really possible for anyone to self-proclaim authenticity? Yet, the goal remains. We want to be known as sinners, saved by grace. We have nothing to hide because our past has already been hidden in Christ (Colossians 3:3). We want people to see us as “real” because we want them to know we have a common need for a loving Savior.
God doesn’t want His Bride to pretend, nor does He want her to be overly burdened by the past. She is what she is because He has cleansed her with His Son’s own blood. When we comprehend the price that was paid to redeem us it is hard to be anything but real in our brokenness. The Father loves His Bride when she tells the world He is her salvation, and why. Here’s to the honest Bride of Christ! May she be the substance behind the show!