I recently realized that out of all of my close guy friends, I am now the only one who is not married. The reality that comes with this, as I have found through the chain of marriages the last few years, is that when a buddy of mine takes a wife, it changes the dynamic of our relationship. Many times when I try and call one of them, or want to hang out, I find that his wife takes first priority (as she should), and that oftentimes, I don’t get him without her.
Now, although I love and respect all of my friend’s wives, and would never do this, I have been thinking about what it would look like if I were to say to one of them, “Man, I love you. You’re one of my best friends. But I cannot stand your wife.” That would be a pretty bad blow to any of them, and if I proceeded to list out all the things that I find distasteful about their wife, it may lead to the end of our friendship. Truth be told, I probably wouldn’t be telling them anything they don’t know. After all, they are married to her. But their role as husband requires them to love and cherish her, and if I am causing problems in that area, then I need to be let go as a friend.
So what does this have to do with the church? Well, what I have come to find (and have even said myself in the past) is that there are many people who will make the profession, “I love Jesus, but I can’t stand the church.” The problem is that Jesus calls the church His bride, and scriptures say that when He died, it wasn’t for any single believer, but He died to purchase the church. That is why the command is given to husbands to love their wives “as Christ love the church and gave Himself up for her” – Eph. 5:25.
Jesus loves the church and calls her His bride. If it would offend an earthly friend to badmouth his wife, how much more must it anger God that so many people claim to love Him, but spend so much time trash talking His bride?
Look, I know the church has problems that for many people are too big to get past, but I would argue that if anyone knows the true depths of the issues that go on with the church, it is Jesus. But though He knew the issues, He still loved her enough to go to the cross.
I know that so many people have been burned by the church, and I hope for healing and reconciliation in those areas. But I write this as a warning. You don’t get to go around claiming to be a lover of Christ, but continue to tear down the bride He is coming back to get. Because if it must come to a decision between you or the church, He will take the church every time.
(The good news is that will all the problems in the church, there is still room for yours as well.)