YOU CAN’T LOVE JESUS WITHOUT LOVING THE CHURCH

One of the most intriguing images found in the Bible is that of the Church as the Bride of Christ. The Church is Christ’s partner, His helpmate. The Church is united to Christ by covenant. That covenant is rooted in Christ’s giving of Himself for the Church and then the Church giving of itself to Him in return.  Spiritually speaking, the two are one.

That oneness is described in another form in 1 Corinthians 12 when the Church is also called the Body of Christ. The Church is the continuing, living embodiment of the Person of Jesus Christ.  We are united with Him through our baptism and held to Him as inseparable because of his unconditional love.

Today, a whole lot of people feel free to despise the church.  Dan Kimball has written an excellent book called They Like Jesus, But Not the Church. Dan describes an unpleasant, even tragic reality in the 21st century. People want to have Jesus, but they want to have nothing to do with the church.

In 0ne sense, the church has earned such an attitude.  Too often the church has forgotten it was the Bride, and acted like it could be Christ’s representative without reflecting the nature and character of Christ.  But that doesn’t change a deeper reality.

God chose the church. Christ made a covenant with the Bride. He did not make that covenant because of who the Bride was but because of Who He (the Groom) is.  To chose to hate the church, to try to separate Christ from His Bride is to ask Him to divorce Himself from the Church.  This Christ clearly will n0t do.  He keeps His promises out of His unconditional love. That’s why Paul would write in Ephesians 4:25ff: “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.”

Many years ago, my father who is a pastor, said to his church, “You can come to me if you have a concern about my wife; but you need to understand I will never take sides against her. Even if I believe she is wrong and needs to make a change, I will do that because I believe it needs to be; not because you want it to be. You cannot ask me to choose you over her, she is my wife. You cannot ask me to love you by despising my wife. She is and will always be a part of me.”

I believe that’s what Christ would say to those church-despisers.  He loves His church. He loves her enough to help her to become who she is capable of being; but he  will never abandon her. Human spouses might do that – but he is God, not man, the Holy One.

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