Critics, Devotionals, Faith, Life, Ministry, writings

An Imperfect Bride

I am a pastor. I realize that’s a major newsflash to many of you. Many of us think of a pastor as the guy or gal who teaches or talks on Sundays at a church building and does funerals. But as a pastor, my calling isn’t just to a particular congregation or local church, but to The Church, the collective of Christ’s followers, world over.

Can I tell you a secret? Promise you won’t tell: “Church People” aren’t perfect. In fact, they are incredibly flawed. No, I’m not revealing something private, no breaking of confidentiality here. It’s an open secret. No local church is perfect. The capital C Church isn’t perfect. Here’s why: The Church isn’t made up of buildings or pews or fancy windows or steeples. The Church is made up of people. People are broken and people are messy.

And because we’re imperfect, we hurt people. We hurt each other. There are countless stories that I’ve heard– and likely you have too– about “church people” saying or doing horrible things. Ranging from all kinds of abuse to simply being rude, the spectrum of pain inflicted by “church people” is broad and can be very deep.

I’ve been hurt by the church and I know that I have also hurt the church. Folks, well intentioned I’m sure, have hurt me and I have, I am certain, hurt people. Oh it’s rarely intentional: a careless remark here, a grumpy face there, a missed call that was forgotten, a special occasion missed. It happens. It’s not right or good, but the Church is an imperfect bride.

Bride, you say. Did I miss the invite to the nuptials? (And Yes, I’ve also caused pain by failing to RSVP.)

In Scripture, the Church is called to Bride of Christ. Jesus death on the cross was, in effect, paying the bridal price or dowry common at the time. And the price was high because Jesus purchased with his blood all who would someday call on his name and follow him. And like most spouses, he ended up with an imperfect bride.

I don’t endorse all Carlo Carretto said or wrote, but man, he hit the nail on the head when he wrote the following describing the imperfections of the Church:

How baffling you are, oh Church, and yet how I love you!

How you have made me suffer, and yet how much I owe you!

I should like to see you destroyed, and yet I need your presence.

You have given me so much scandal and yet you have made me understand sanctity.

I have seen nothing in the world more devoted to obscurity, more compromised, more false, and I have touched nothing more pure, more generous, more beautiful. How often I have wanted to shut the doors of my soul in your face, and how often I have prayed to die in the safety of your arms.

No, I cannot free myself from you, because I am you, although not completely.

And where should I go?

The God Who Comes by Carlo Carretto

But, Jesus isn’t content to leave us imperfect. Writing to husbands, the Apostle Paul says this in Ephesians 5:25-27 (ESV)

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Friends, we’re not that Church just yet. Someday we will be. But until then, we’re broken people who tend to hurt others if we’re not careful.

And to my friends who have given up on Church but still believe in Jesus… Don’t allow the pain caused by broken people to prevent you from seeing God do something beautiful. Let me put it this way: you may love me, but if you despise my bride, we’re probably not going to be all that close, no matter how much you proclaim your devotion to me.

Yes, the Church, both local and universal is most definitely an imperfect bride. I am an imperfect pastor. And you, yes you reading, are also imperfect. Let us not excuse our imperfections, but may we ask the Lord to give us a greater love for imperfect people and healing for pain caused by them.

Just maybe, that’s the way He will remove the blemishes.

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