Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Bride?

"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish."  Ephesians 5:25-27 

The Church is called "The Bride of Christ", a "city on a hill", and "salt and light".  In fact in Matthew 5:14, Jesus tells his listeners, "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden."  We, The Church, cannot be hidden.

I have many unchurched, dechurched (they used to attend church), or unchristian friends.  They tell me the reason they don't go to church is simple; they see the way we treat one another (gossip, judge, lie, manipulate, etc…), and they want nothing to do with that environment.  Christians say, "Don't look to me, I'm only human.  Look to God."  But people ARE looking to us.

Imagine going to a wedding.  You are a guest of the groom, and you've never met the bride.  You love the groom and you respect and trust him.

The groom stands at the alter, awaiting his wife-to-be.  His groomsmen stand in support.  The bridesmaids wear matching purple gowns, adorned with gold cord and rhinestones; each one more beautiful than the next.  Their smiles outshine the sun's rays pouring in through stained glass church windows.  "This", you think, "is what Jesus envisioned when he called us 'The Bride'."

The music swells.  The groom's intended appears at the end of the flower-lined aisle.  

You're surprised.  No, you're shocked.  Her dress is tattered, her makeup is smeared, her unkempt hair has not been brushed in a month, and she's staggering and stammering.  She stops to flirt with every male guest in the room.  She even stops to touch a man - whose wife tugs on his arm.  Who is this woman?

Your friend never takes his eyes off the dirty, haggard bride.  He loves her.  He clearly thinks she's the most beautiful woman he's ever seen.  

It's tough to not be unnerved by the woman's inappropriate behavior, but you trust the groom.  And so, you relax.

After the wedding, the new husband invites all his friends to come to his home.  "Come," he says, "you’re all welcome."  But his wife doesn't receive you into their home with acceptance.  She criticizes your clothes, your friends, the gift you brought to the wedding, how you spend your free time…even your work.  She drinks too much, flirts with every man she sees, judges her neighbors, and keeps a dirty house.  

Her husband loves her still.

I believe The Church was designed by God to be looked at and to be seen.  We are to be an example and reflection of who Jesus is.  We're a "city on a hill", the "light of the world"…the bride!  It's as if God expected all eyes to be on us.  He expected the world’s eyes to turn toward us.

People are watching us.  And, how will they know we are Christians?  It's very simple really.  John 13:35 gives us the easy answer: "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."  We can be so cruel to one another.  We, The Bride, mistreat the friends of The Groom.  But people are watching us, and I believe God designed it that way.  

In the scenario I've painted here, it's painfully obvious to see why the groom's friends stop going to his house.  They love him, they even miss him, but they just can't be around the bride.  She mistreats the friends AND the man she married.  His house is not a place of warmth and acceptance, love and joy.  It's a place of judgment, condemnation, jealousy, and pride.  

Christ will present us to God spotless and blameless, but how will we present Christ to the world?  We’re being watched, and they’ll know we’re his disciples if we love one another.

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