To Love the Church Like Jesus

(One of my IHOPU classes, Basic Christian Beliefs, is giving the assignment of blogging on certain questions from the lessons every week. This week, I’m choosing the question “Can you love Jesus but hate the church?”)

“I love Jesus, just not the church.”

I’ve heard variations of this statement to varying degrees over the years. In a way, I understand. I really do. A lot of people have been deeply hurt by members of the Church. It’s very understandable to react by distancing oneself from the Church and to seek out one’s own spiritual path toward God. And in one sense, I am so pleased when such people feel hurt, and they still cling to Jesus. That’s a remarkable thing and a testament to who He is even when His people misrepresent Him. But here’s the thing.

Jesus is not bitter against His own body.

If we want to be on this journey of loving what God loves and hating what He hates, then we have to get His perspective of how He sees the Church.

He nourishes and cherishes the Church as His body.

For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. (Ephesians 5:29-30)

KristynHoganBrideAndGroom4-334x500He rejoices over His people as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride. We are His betrothed.

For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. (Isaiah 62:5)

And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. (Hosea 2:19)

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (Revelation 21:2)

We are called to stand alongside Jesus as friends of the bridegroom, to be jealous for the bride in the same way that He is.

The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. (John 3:29)

For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:2)

What best man (the modern equivalent of the “friend of the bridegroom”) would ever say before the wedding, “I love the guy, but I can’t stand this girl he’s marrying”? What groom would ever choose someone who was angry or bitter at his chosen bride to stand beside him on his wedding day?

Of course the Church has issues sometimes. Sometimes big issues, in certain areas. But she is in the process of being sanctified, and she will be ready on that Day. In the meantime, we need to give her lots of grace and love her as Christ loves her, and laid down His life for her. (Ephesians 5:24) We need to get a higher vision. The Church is not the broken individuals who hurt you. The Church is so much bigger and more glorious than that. (For one thing, the Church is global and eternal, not one localised expression or cultural agenda.) And if she’s not completely glorious now, she will be soon. Jesus sees her in that way, even as He sees us as perfectly holy and chooses to be blind to our flaws.

I want to love what Jesus loves and hate what He hates. I want to see through His eyes–and His eyes are fiery with jealous desire for His bride.

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