Competition: Part 2

The glow inside that rustic barn was almost magical… lights twinkled from barren trees that lined the room and gauzy gold curtains seemed to almost pour down the walls in glimmers of sweet light. The enchantedly beautiful bride and her nervous groom stood quietly holding each others hands at the end of an aisle covered in white rose petals. The groom stood almost a foot taller than her and looked down upon his bride with an unbearable love that showed anxiousness, excitement and unwavering grace in his watering eyes. She peeked up at him with unabashed love and excitement and they patiently waited for the minister to welcome everyone gathered. The crowd of family and close friends leaned forward in their wooden chairs, listening to the music swell and waiting in anticipation for the start of the ceremony to unite these two wonderful people, almost embarrassed to be witnesses of the intimacy of this time.

I sat with my purse in my lap, rows back and took in the intimacy of the situation. It brought tears to my eyes knowing the stories of these two great people my husband and I have  had the privilege of getting to know over the last year. I watched as my husband officiated the ceremony and opened his Bible, smiling as he began speaking to the crowd of witnesses.

“Ephesians 5:22-33.”He cleared his throat and shot a look at the two in front of him.

“Oh, Lord… “I prayed quickly as a hush  fell over the crowd. “Help those listening to understand what he’s about to explain to them…”

 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”

I could tell that some people’s walls immediately went up when they heard the words, “Wives, submit…” and they were already tuning him out.

“Help them to listen and hear what You want them to hear…” I whispered to my God.

You could have heard a pin drop.

And then, I watched as my husband paused… smiled to the crowd and continued.

“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, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—  for we are members of his body.  “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”  This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.  However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

After finishing the scripture, I listened as he continued; people leaned forward in their seats to try and figure out where he would go next. “See here’s the deal,” he said turning his attention to the crowd.

“So often this passage has received a bad rap because we forget to read the end of the passage.

You see, husbands are called to present their wives as Christ presents the Church. The church is messy. I mean, it’s filled with people like us!

(A chuckle swept over the crowd.)

We are people who don’t have it all together all the time. People who make mistakes and have bad days. People who sin. Even though we don’t deserve it or look good to others, Christ presents us, the Church, as holy and blameless.

We’ve talked about how it’s the groom’s role to love his new bride in the same way. And no matter what happens,…in sickness and in health… after shopping trips and long days at work… he is called to love his bride and present her as beautiful and blameless. When a bridegroom loves his bride this way, the natural response is for her to respect him.

This groom you see before you today is a man ready to be a husband his bride can respect. I look forward to seeing their marriage reflect Christ’s love for the church.”

Shoulders relaxed and light flooded the faces of those sitting around me.  I could hear whispers of excitement and heads nodding along with him.

And then it hit me. The Holy Spirit convicted me in those moments and humbled my heart.  I began to wipe tears from my eyes as I realized another side to this verse that I had never quite grasped.

We bash the bride of Christ (his Church) all the time. And we are the bride of Christ.  How twisted is that? In my mind, I see a group of wedding dress clad women screaming at each other, pulling each other’s hair, clawing at each other’s dresses and hurling handfuls of mud at each other’s dresses. Pret-ty ugly.

We may all be imperfect churches. We might have a hard time getting along. But we are family. We are a kingdom. And we should at least TRY to work together and uplift each other.

Praise Jesus for those churches who do exactly that!

  • Who step out in faith and help a church in need.
  • Who send workers to help a struggling church with excitement and not frustration that they are losing members of their church to another.
  • Who talk excitedly about another church in town that is GROWING!
  • Who ask new plants what their needs are and scramble to help them fulfill them
  • Who work together to reach the community around them that they share in order to bring the Gospel to those who haven’t heard it

Back to Love

We as churches have a problem.  A problem with love.  If we cannot love our fellow churches… and church members…then the Kingdom will never advance as fast as it could.
So… love, people.  Give grace when others in your church body make mistakes…. share truth with empathy when someone in your church body needs to hear from God’s Word… and then just love them.
It doesn’t make sense for us to attack our own Body. (This goes for us picking other churches apart too, people.) Yet we still do it through:
  • Gossip
    • Divisive (the kind that destroys churches by dividing people)
    • Plain Petty
  • Condescending glances
  • The “I Could Do It Better” Mentality when it comes to volunteer roles (even paid positions) within the Church
  • Harsh Criticism of
    • Worship
    • Preaching
    • Children’s Ministry
    • Outreach and Events
    • Other Church Ministries
  • Being Exclusive within our churches (going back to Middle School)
  • Church Jumping (Try staying and pushing through the challenge to experience health)
What is that saying? Love conquers all? I mean, isn’t that exactly what Christ did for us? Loved us so much to give up his own life to conquer sin for us? Man, we needed that.
Hmmm….
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