I have been know to point out a few faults of the Church from time to time but most of those have come from looking in the mirror for a while. I say this because the Church is not an institution, despite the best efforts of man, but instead it is the Body of Christ, you and me. She is the beautiful Bride of Christ, and although we may point out our failings to live up to where we are suppose to be as part of the Bride, we cannot deny her beauty and grace.
We need to be careful, especially those who have decided to seclude themselves from the Body because, even though there are failings of members and leaders, she is still the design of God. The Church was not built by man for man's purposes but she was called into being by Jesus. When we speak against the Bride, attack her and even withdraw from her we are doing these things to Jesus. You will hear people say, "I love God, it's his children I have problems with". But the Word clearly states:
If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:20)
Usually people leave or criticize the Church for self-centered reasons; they were hurt or they felt a lack of love. This comes from a place of immaturity which leads to a lot of ugliness and separation from God. When we have accepted Jesus we enter into a new thing that is centered on Christ and not ourselves. Instead of harbouring hurt and bitterness we freely forgive and allow Jesus to heal that pain. We don't turn around and attacked the Bride for whom he is returning to take home. Our attitude toward the Church must be so much different because it is the place of worship. I am not referring to any building but instead the gathering of believers in whatever form. This is the Bride. Israel had Jerusalem and the temple but Jesus has given us a new city and a new temple but the sentiment is the same:
I rejoiced with those who said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the LORD.”
Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem. (Psalm 122:1-2)
Seriously, is that your attitude as you get ready to attend this morning? Or perhaps you haven't been to church for years because of some hurt or other similar reason. Do you feel stronger for that decision? Are you overflowing with the strength and power of the Lord? Each Sunday, do you really feel that you have met with God, delighted him with your worship and have been fed well on the Word? Is there not some part of you that missing the specialness of the gathering? Do you not understand your place of disobedience when the Word tells us not to stop gathering? Gathering for worship is not an option and it is not devoid of purpose and power. If you are not filled with excitement and anticipation of gathering this morning to lift up the name of Jesus with family and friends you had better check your relationship with the Lord.
Jerusalem is sacred and precious to the Israelites. The Church should be the same for us. Instead of criticizing and tearing down the Bride of Christ we should be praying for her and those appointed as leaders:
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”
For the sake of my brothers and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
I will seek your prosperity. (Psalm 122:6-9)
There is a thought for you; instead of considering yourself first why not pray for the Church for the sake of those you love, for 'brothers and friends'? We need a strong Bride far more than you realize. And instead of trying to destroy her, why not work for her prosperity? The stronger the Bride the stronger we all are because we are all part of her.
This is not some airhead cry for support; this is the Word of God calling judgement on all those who would attack the children of God. No one is claiming perfection here because we are all still working out our salvation daily, as the Word tells us to do. Hurt and pain happen because sometimes those who belong to the light allow the darkness to creep in. But part of the foundation of the Body is love and forgiveness, so if we can't love and forgive I think we have missed the whole point. The weak run away and hide but the strong stand and fight.
As we gather in our various parts of the Body today, let us become defenders and promoters of the precious Bride of Christ. Those who are wrong will be corrected by the Lord and those who are weak will be strengthened, just don't give up. Let's praise the Lord for the beauty and wonder of his Bride and let us be thankful for all that he continues to do for us. The Bride is precious; treat her that way and worship in the freedom and peace we enjoy within her.