By Mike Leake
I have lost track of how many books begin by telling me how jacked up the church is. Usually after lambasting the church and pointing out her many failures there is some obligatory statement on how Jesus still loves her and how she is the only hope of this generation. But at present she is unattractive, whorish, and a little on the ugly side. What usually follows is the authors solution for making the church not quite such an ugly old hag.
I’ll be the first to confess that I’ve spoken numerous times on how the church can be a pretty messed up place. When Jesus draws sinners into such an intimate fellowship things can get ugly. So, I get why people say that the church isn’t quite how she ought to be.
Yet if I overheard some dude talking about my wife the way that we often talk about Jesus’ bride I’d start turning green like the Incredible Hulk and probably smash him in the nose. “Jesus, your wife is an ugly old hag, that often plays the harlot, and she is unattractive to even her best friends. But have no fear I’ve written a book that will shape her up to make her respectable.” See how ignorant that sounds?
I wonder if Jesus ever wants to thump us in the nose for the way we talk about His precious Bride that He is washing in the water of the Word?
Yeah, but I’m part of the church…
It’s not quite as black and white as I have presented it though. Because many of these authors are pastors that are really wanting to lovingly encourage the church. And let’s be honest, often these assessments do have a level of truth to them. And what muddies the waters even further is that the one speaking to the church is also part of the church, and so it’s really as if the bride is talking to herself.
But what would a husband’s response be if he overheard his wife referring to herself as an ugly old hag? Though I would never resort to a Hulk-smash I still don’t take kindly to even my own wife talking bad about herself. It angers me. She is my treasure and I’m not cool with anybody—even her—making it seem like what I value is really nothing better than a dilapidated rag doll that would be better served in a trash heap. I’m offended that she would let someone other than her own husband provide her identity. (Feel free to read into that last statement and entirely miss my point).
If there ever was a church that deserved having a letter addressed to it as “dear uncomely peeps”, it would have been the church at Corinth. They had plenty of faults that Paul could have really laid into them for. Yet notice in 1 Corinthians 1:2 that Paul reminds them of their fundamental identity in Christ instead of the foolish garments of rebellion that they’ve decided to parade in.
Maybe a better formula for helping the church is to constantly remind her who she is instead of dogging on her for who she ain’t. Our identity comes from our husband and not from our falls and foibles. Soiled and sullied we might be at times, but we’re still His precious Bride.
Those of us that are occasionally the means that God uses to wash His Bride with the water of the Word ought to remember just who it is that we are talking to.