My favorite moment in all weddings is hands down when we get the first glimpse of the bride at the end of the aisle, standing there in absolute beauty. Everyone catches their breath for a moment and lets out a sigh when they see her for the first time, in her glorious white dress – her face resonating joy, love and great anticipation. As soon as I see the bride, I always glance back at the grooms face as his eyes behold the wonder and awe of that moment – as his love, the bride that he chose and pursued ‘til this very moment, walks down the aisle, towards him – all his – completely.
What has made me love this moment even more, is the parallel we see in the Bible of Jesus as the groom and us, the collective global church, as the bride.
The Bride of Christ has my heart’s affection.
I love the church gathered and spread throughout the community. God has used His Word and His people to shape me, catch me, nurture me, refine me and grow me. The Bride is significant to me – even more significant to Jesus. I have been prayerful and purposeful about this piece, so that, to the best of my human ability, I may reflect the heart of God and the love of Jesus as I speak about His collective – the Bride.
The earliest church formed in the first century AD after Jesus returned to life from the grave, and ascended to heaven. In Jerusalem, a city that was overflowing with a myriad of pilgrims for a Jewish festival , was overrun by a powerful movement of God, as professing Christ- followers were filled with the Spirit of God (Acts 2). The story of the first church in Acts shows the uncontainable power of the gospel, and the type of community that is formed when a group of people are simultaneously surrendered to God and His ways. As a result of their faith, many of these new believers were completely displaced from their homes, families and Jewish religious communities – all their security and comforts gone. The church in Jerusalem gathered around these fellow believers and gave away their homes, shared their spaces, sold all their belongings and created a new community with those who had come to faith in Jesus. Norms were overturned by their unity and love. The church in Jerusalem displayed deep, sacrificial commitment to one another. This, paired with their immense gratitude and life altering passion for the gospel, defined them as the church. From there the gospel spread and churches were planted in cities throughout the area and beyond, to this very day (Acts 8-11).
There have been seasons where the bride of Christ has powerfully impacted and changed entire countries and political systems to reform social justice, education, healthcare, and the quality of life of the impoverished, elderly, women and children, the sick, starving and homeless. There have been moments in history that the church has stepped up and met needs throughout war, poverty, unjust political reign and famine that no other structured organization could have. The church has done, and continues to do amazing and wondrous things when gathered in unity for a purpose. Unfortunately, on the flip side there have also been times throughout history that the church has abused its power. Some of the most well known examples are the crusades, where the church used its moral authority and powerful influence to misplace ethnic groups, take and pillage land, murder and massacre – to recover the Holy Land, accomplish a political agenda and suppress heresy and paganism (the practice of Polythiesm, which is the worship and belief in multiple deities/gods). Heart breaking and disastrous. Power placed in the wrong hands and not held accountable to the Word of Truth has the potential to be horrifically destructive and ungodly – even within the church. When the church is loving God and loving others, being light, speaking truth and living according to the moral standards that God has given us in His Word, it will not always be received by culture, but it should always positively and powerfully influence the under current of culture in a beautiful way.
Within our current culture there are definitely people who claim to love God and be Jesus followers, but purposefully and intentionally hurt others who don’t live up to their false standards of righteousness. Please know that their deeply hurtful and unnecessary campaigns and judgements of others grieve the heart of God and misrepresent the love of Jesus. These are not the people I’m talking about when I refer to the Bride of Christ. I am referring to Christians who sincerely love Jesus, know His Word and are doing their absolute best diligence to walk in truth and love – despite their human flaws and brokenness.
I hear over and over again, things along the lines of “I love Jesus and have no problem with Him … it’s the church that I have issues with. It’s the church that has rejected me, (or judged me, or been hypocritical…. So on and so forth).” Rejection, judgement and hypocrisy, among other flaws, have been many of our experiences in the church – mine included. The brokeness within the church reaches everyone. I have been hurt by the church and I am certain that I have hurt people in the church -because, I am broken… so is every human that loves Jesus and is a part of the collective church – we are flawed. This is why love and grace are needed and essential in our relationships inside the church and all our interactions outside the church as well. What should define the Bride of Christ is not how we often we fail and how flawed we are, but rather our ability to continually choose to love each other, to generously extend grace and forgiveness as we grow in depth of relationship through our inevitable failures and flaws.
I have heard many arguments and reasons why it is justifiable to be a Christian and not love or participate in the church – God’s Bride. But, can I pause here for just a moment, to say a really hard truth?
It is impossible to love Jesus and not love His Bride. (1 John 3:10 & 4:20-21)
It is often easier to leave, put up walls and defend your hurt. The church is made up of thousands of broken, hurting and imperfect people around the globe. We are not going to get everything right and we are certainly, at times, going to be the source of hurt, disappointment and wounds. Our collective goal is to continually strive to love others with the unconditional and miraculous love of Jesus, but we often do it in a broken way – For that we need abundant grace. Unity, within community gathered, with so many people who each have their own opinions, personalities and ideas is impossible without the love, grace and the forgiveness of Jesus. Depth of community, and the beauty of the Bride is birthed out of persevering, loving, forgiving and lavishing grace. The most beautiful of relationships are forged through the burning of trial, listening to one another, and fighting through the difficult seasons with brave love. I am not saying this to minimize the hurt and damage that has come from the church. Your pain and my pain has been real. I am boldly speaking these truths to breathe hope into those hurt places.
The church is so much bigger than us. Collective, we are the Bride of Christ. He looks at us – the global and local bride, the way that a groom looks at the bride when He sees her standing at the end of the aisle. We are His chosen people, the ones he pursues,and loves beyond comprehension. We are the ones He died to save because His love for us is so unwavering, vast and great. We are His. To say you don’t love the church is to say that you don’t love the very entity that Christ gave His life for to call His own. The church is the LOVE – the very Bride and anticipation – of the Almighty Saviour.
Worth fighting for? Yes.
Worth dying for? It’s already been done.
Immeasurably valuable to King Jesus? YES.
Therefore, the Bride should be immeasurably valuable to you and I as well.
With sisterly affection and genuine love,
Part Two The Bride – My Personal Experience will be posted next Monday. Stay tuned!