And despite the fact that the institution of marriage is being called into question now more than ever, despite the fact that more than half of all marriages will end in divorce, more than half a million people will be getting married this June. That’s more weddings than any other month of the year.
I think it is a good time to remember that God looks forward to that day when His children are gathered to Him in glory, and that He speaks of it as a great wedding day. As believers we are a bride, ready to be joined with our groom, His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The celebration we will enjoy on that day is called “the marriage supper of the Lamb.” What a truly beautiful bride we will be when He presents us as “a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but … holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27). Yet in the meantime most of us have become quite adept at pointing out the spots, the wrinkles and the blemishes on this particular bride-in-waiting.
Have you noticed how easy it is to criticize the church these days? Cultural commentators are quick to identify evangelical Christians as hopelessly out of step with their stance on all the social and moral issues now under review and reconsideration. Public opinion polls show that a majority of Americans, especially younger Americans, are far, far from our convictions about right and wrong when it comes to social mores. That brings the church in for some harsh criticism from those who do not hold to a Biblical worldview. Yet this is to be expected.
Moishe Rosen used to say, “you can’t keep a sinner from sinning any more than you can keep a cow from mooing.” (Of course, he recognized that all of us are sinners in need of salvation.) But moral reformation never precedes spiritual transformation. Why should we expect affirmation and encouragement from those who view the Bible as a book of fables, and who see biblical morality as hopelessly anachronistic?
What is far more troubling to me is how often the church is lambasted by those who claim membership therein. I hear Christians playing a game of “us and them” that is divisive and frankly somewhat schizophrenic as the accusers are seemingly unaware that “they” are part of “us.” The bride can often be her own worst critic. Some complain about styles of worship, the lack of what they consider proper decorum, the dress is too casual, the music is too loud, the people are unloving, too judgmental, too accepting, etc., etc. The list goes on and on of reasons that followers of Jesus find to be critical of the church in general and often of their own local church in particular.
But Yeshua loves His bride and sees His bride as beautiful—and so should we. He is not blind to our flaws or to the reasons for the criticism. He sees those flaws better than anyone because He died to save us from the very sin that makes us such easy targets for rampant criticism. So we need to be careful about harshly criticizing people Jesus loves and died to save.
This is not to say that the church is above scrutiny and honest critique. Many today are understandably concerned and vocal about pastors who no longer preach the Word, or who are unwilling to mention sin and the need for repentance. The pressure to accommodate the shifting morality of our day has wreaked havoc on many, both in the pews and in the pulpit.
We cannot ignore it when our churches begin to compromise on key issues and promulgate views that oppose clear teachings of the Bible. But we should critique, not with smugness or self-righteousness, but rather with tears and on our knees in prayer, beseeching God to grant His church repentance and revival. Otherwise we will see others’ sin looming so large that we will lose sight of our own.
This past March, our Jews for Jesus missionaries spent several weeks ministering in over 1,000 churches, sharing the message of Christ in the Passover. We were welcomed with love. We met thousands of brothers and sisters who were genuinely interested in the work we do. Pastors went out of their way to affirm us and encourage their people to stand with us. We heard from scores of individuals who truly had a burden for their Jewish friends to come to Jesus and were eager to hear from us how they might be able to effectively share the good news with them. People opened their homes to us and fed us. They opened their checkbooks and gave generously to support our ongoing ministry. They asked questions with genuine interest and offered eager and heartfelt prayers to God on our behalf.
I thank God for His bride the church. Without the church there would be no Jews for Jesus. The church is my family, warts and all. I pray that God will help me to love His people as He would have me to, to pray for the church and be as generous as possible in giving to the church in all its many efforts and outreaches. In doing so, I will be the better for it, becoming more and more like the groom, my blessed Messiah Jesus.
A few years ago my daughter was home from school due to having had her wisdom teeth pulled. She had lain down on the couch in front of the television to watch a reality show called “Say Yes to the Dress.” Wanting to spend some time with her, I decided to watch the show and engage with her about it. If you haven’t heard of it before, the show takes place in several different bridal boutiques where future brides come with various friends and family members to select their gowns. Sometimes there is an entire entourage with aunts and uncles, sisters and brothers.
As employees bring one dress after another, the drama that ensues with surly brides-to-be, nit-picking mothers and mothers-in-law and other family members can make you wonder why anyone would want to marry into this particular family. Yet there comes a time in each episode when the bride-to-be walks out in “the right dress” to the oohs and aahs of all those who had only minutes ago been ready to tear each other’s hair out. Then come the smiles and the joy, the hugs and the tears, as that wedding day suddenly becomes all the more real and the beauty of the bride all the more apparent.
You might say that all of us who love the Lord need to stop bickering and “say yes to the dress.” We need to see the bride more clearly, as Yeshua does, dressed in her glorious raiment. Then we can love the church as Christ does and look forward to that wonderful day when we all will be seated together at the marriage supper of the Lamb.
If you liked this article, you might also like “Seven Reasons Why I Love the Church” by David Brickner.
For a bonus article on distinguishing between what is judicious versus what is judgmental, see “Judicious or Judgmental?” by Ruth Rosen.