Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we focused on Christ’s lavish love for the church, ending with the question, “If Christ loves the church so much, shouldn’t we also?”
If we honest with ourselves, the answer to this question isn’t as obvious as it might seem. It’s common these days for people, including Christians, to rail about the church, to focus on its ample shortcomings, to overlook its goodness, to magnify its hypocrisy. I wonder: Would we do this if we really believed Christ loved the church?
It’s also common today for believers to minimize the value of the church, to claim that we need Jesus, not the church. Post on Facebook that you love Jesus but not the church and you’ll get a slew of “Likes.” Yet if we were convinced that Jesus loves the church would we be so quick to reject his beloved?
“But,” one might fairly protest, “the church that exists today is such a mess. The actual church is nothing like what Christ intended it to be. I can love the church as a theological ideal, perhaps, but the real church is just not lovable.”
To be sure, the church has plenty of flaws. I’ve seen them, felt them, bemoaned them, and added to them. But does this allow me to fail to love the church? Consider the analogy of marriage—my marriage, in particular. It’s true that I have plenty of flaws. I make tons of mistakes. Nobody knows this better than my wife, Linda. But, if you criticize me in her presence, her blood will boil. She might not take off your head because she’s a kind person, but she will be deeply offended. She’ll be more upset by your criticism of me than I will be. Of course Jesus knows that the church is flawed. Her failures aren’t news to the Lord. But I wonder how he feels when we put down his bride or minimize her value?
Tomorrow, we’ll consider more thoroughly the question of whether Christ really loves the flawed church. For now, though, let me encourage you to reflect on the following questions.
Something to Think About:
How do you feel about the church?
In what ways have you seen or experienced its flaws?
Would you say that you love the church? If not, why not? If so, why?
How do you express your love for the church?
Something to Do:
Set aside several minutes today to pray for your church: its mission, its leaders, its ministries. Give thanks for how this church has made a difference in your life and in the community. Offer your church’s flaws to the Lord, asking for his forgiveness, cleansing, and healing. Commit yourself afresh to helping your church be all that God intends it to be.
Lord Jesus Christ, as a member of your church, I confess that we fall short in many ways of what you intend for us. We are rife with division and discord. We so easily turn inward and care about ourselves while neglecting our neighbors and our mission in the world. We can fail to love each other, not to mention loving our neighbors and our enemies. In these and so many other ways, we fall short of your intentions for us. We fail to honor you in our life and work. Forgive us, Lord.
Yet you love us. You do love your church. You claim us as your own. You died for us. You are at work among us and through us. You bless us, comfort us, and empower us. How we thank you, Lord, for loving us even though we are such a mess in so many ways. Thank you for your mercy and grace, for your love that never lets us go. Amen.