Have you ever gone up to your best friend and exclaimed like a badge of honor, “Bro, I love you, but I hate your wife”?
Have you done that with God?
A common lament I hear among the church hoppers/professional critics/super spiritual/doctrinal police is that the modern church is virtually anathema. That all her compromising weaknesses are too much to overcome. That Joel Osteen/Rick Warren/Oprah/Seeker sensitivism/Legalism/Liberalism/Prosperity Gospel has permeated and made the church so laughably ridiculously vacuous that she is irrecoverable in her modern expression.
To many, the modern church is so steeped in spiritual adultery that she should be cast off like a burning bath robe.
Some of this stripe may claim with sweeping certainty, “I love God, but I can’t stand the church.”
Like we have to start completely over in our living room with an elite group of prayer warrior soldiers on fire like us.
Like our authenticity is the savior of the church.
Like we’re the only disciples of Jesus who have read Acts 2.
Now I make no qualms about this: Not every fledgling expression of the “institutional” church is a pure expression of His chosen bride. Heresy is a real scourge. The way is narrow.
But we need to be careful when talking about a man’s wife. Especially when that man happens to be the holy Creator of the Universe. So many times we’re not building walls around a pure gospel message, but around our pet preferences.
He has made a bride spotless with the blood of His own dear Son (Ephesians 5:25-32). She is precious to Him. He loves her not because she is lovable but because He is love. She is advancing and tearing down enemy gates in ways we haven’t yet imagined (Matthew 16:18-20). Somewhere along the line, it became customary to gleefully cast the first, second, and third stones at this sad bride in the name of orthodoxy, or stranger…grace.
And He delights to make His love known not through solo efforts of proud heroism, but through a humble serving community. An assembly. An ekklesia. Fellow “called out” ones uniting under one purpose.
His church bride.
The fact that she is hurting, stumbling, sick, scandal ridden, confused and weak should make our heart break for her all the more. The fact that she is full of hypocrites like us should give us resolve to live and speak grace towards her all the more.
There are already a million expressions, denominational or otherwise, that appeal to the great diversity of this bride. Historically, the blood of countless men and women have been spilled out all over this dress, making it whiter for her Wedding Day. We needn’t assume that we can doll her up right with our rogue passions, that our isolated faithfulness is the key that unlocks the Banquet door.
He made a bride.
He made that bride to be a community.
She’s not perfect.
He makes her perfect.
Don’t tell me you’re my boy and then talk smack about my wife.
If you love Him, you will love His church.