Dissing On My Bride

He walked up to me visibly stung by an interaction that he just had.  I didn't know him, but he began to talk to me as if he was doing me a favor.

"Be careful of that lady over there." pointing to the one across the room in a red dress, "I don't think she's got it all together."

"Really?  What happened?" I asked.

"Well, I went over there, introduced myself, held out my hand for a friendly handshake and after a few awkward moments, she simply turned away and started talking to someone else."

"Maybe she didn't mean anything by it."  I interjected.

"I don't know.  She just didn't seem all there.  Not the type of person I think I'd like to hang around."

"You got all that from a refusal to shake your hand?"

"I'm a pretty good judge of character.  Trust me, if you have a chance to get around her, you'll see."  All of a sudden a smile began to creep on my new friend's face, "As a matter of fact, here she comes.  Judge for yourself."

The lady in the red dress approached us.  She was gorgeous.  Her brown hair was laying off her shoulders.  I don't know if I have ever believed in "love at first sight", but this came awful close.  What terrible flaws could this man see in her after such a brief encounter?  Because everything I could see was beautiful.

As she arrived, I opened my mouth to introduce myself.  "My name is Jeremy.  I'm afraid that I haven't had the pleasure of getting your name."  I held out my hand.  "And this is my wife Shannon."

***

The above story is fictional.  Nothing like that has ever happened to my knowledge to me.  However, it happens all the time in the context of the church.

In our culture, it has become fashionable to be a Christian but have a disregard or even an animus against the church.  Of course, it isn't phrased that way.  It is often couched in terms like, "I don't believe in organized religion".  Or less graciously, "churches are full of hypocrites".  I get it.  I know that many people have been burned by those in fellowship with one another.  The church is far from perfect.

However, for some strange reason, we have come to the conclusion that we endear ourselves to Christ more, that our religion is somehow more pure, by showing an utter disregard and disrespect for His church.  So we point out her flaws and imperfections and hypocrisies, in an effort to make us more beautiful at the expense of others whom Jesus died for.

I have been married to my wife for over 20 years.  I can honestly say that she is more beautiful now than she was the day that I met her.  She is definitely not flawless, though I probably treat her that way.  Let me ask you a question:  What do you think you are going to reveal about my wife that I don't already know better than you do?  I have spent the last 20+ years getting to know her dreams, her flaws, her strengths and weaknesses.  I have argued & fought with her and loved & sacrificed for her better than anyone but Christ.

Let me ask you another question:  How are you going to win my affection or respect by dissing on my wife?  Or better yet, how do you think that you are honoring me by dissing on her?

My wife is more beautiful now partially because of my devotion to her.  True devotion isn't displayed when things are going great, but when things are hard.  Like I said, I know my wife's flaws better than anyone, save Jesus.  I have been on the receiving end of those flaws in a way that others who are not devoted to her have never seen.

The opposite is true as well.  She has seen all of my baggage and been a victim of the selfish choices I have made over the years.  I wouldn't be half the man that I am now without her.

Because of our devotion to one another we have learned to be more like Jesus.  We know what it means to truly forgive each other.  We know what it is to love as Jesus did, despite our many flaws that He is still working on.  We know more about what it is like to be self-sacrificial for the other person's good.  We know what it means to deny ourselves.  We know how to overlook an offence.  We know patience and long-suffering (we have kids).  We have learned so much because we have been devoted to one another.

All of those lessons listed above were hard to learn.  They weren't taught during the honeymoon period of our marriage or our dating relationship before we committed to one another.  They were taught after we committed our lives to one another and the flaws began to manifest itself in our lives.  When our imperfections showed us how we really were in all our ugliness, we didn't run from one another but committed ourselves to each other and to Christ even more.  After over 20 years of marriage, we are getting pretty good at understanding how to love each other better, but it has taken a lot of work.  More than that, it has taken us taking our commitment to one another seriously.

Ironically, those same hard lessons are also predominantly what is lacking in our churches because of the lack of devotion many in today's society have toward Christ's bride.  The husband/wife relationship is supposed to reflect the relationship that Christ has with the church (Eph. 5:21-33).

Yet, we criticize the church for everything.  The lights.  The worship.  The style of preaching.  The children's or youth program.  The hypocrisy found among members who claim to be followers of Christ.  The bad experience we had with someone in the church.  We change churches as soon as we can't stand something anymore and then wonder why our marriages are failing.

No, that last sentence was not a typo.

If the husband/wife relationship is the reflection of Christ and the church, then how we treat the bride of Christ will be reflected also in our marriages.  If we find it easy to criticize His bride, we will find it easy to criticize our spouse.  If small things irritate us at church, small things will irritate us at home.  If we leave a church because our needs, whatever they are, aren't being met, then we will find ways to leave our marriages for the same reason.  If we don't reconcile with others whom we have an offense against in church, then we will not make the effort to do the same in our marriages.  If the flaws of other believers drive us away from the fellowship of believers because of their imperfections, then we will be driven away from our spouses because of their flaws and imperfections.

We need to stop dissing the bride of Christ and start being devoted to her, because Jesus is.  We need to be devoted, even when its hard or we will never learn the hard lessons Christ is trying to teach us through the church that build character and perseverance that will benefit our personal walk with Christ, and, by extension our marriages and families.  If we want stronger churches, stronger marriages and stronger families then what we need more than anything is more devotion to the bride of Christ, not less.

This is the first of two posts that highlight what I think are major issues the church in America is currently facing. 





       

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