By Eva Juliuson
The first time I truly believed that my husband loved me was when we were engaged and I hurt him deeply. The painful look I saw in his eyes could not be taken back, yet it was overshadowed by the fact that he loved me anyway.
Now I can’t even recall how I had hurt him because it is insignificant next to the fact that he still loved me, still saw me as beautiful, and still wanted me as his bride. My husband loved me despite my imperfections. Nothing could take away his love for me—not even the suffering and disappointment I had caused him. It gave me a new picture of how our Lord loves his bride—the church.
It’s easy to spot the imperfections of the church. In fact, many people take a lot of satisfaction in bringing up each and every flaw. It’s true that at times the church can sport judgmental attitudes, unwelcoming hearts, self-righteous thinking, no grace for those who break the rules, hypocrisy, conflict, and arguments within—the list goes on and on. The blemishes on the face of the bride or her not-so-perfect figure or the whispers of what she has done in the past cannot take away the glorious love the Father and Son have for the beautiful bride.
Recently I greeted a young man covered in tattoos with large-gauged earrings as he came into our church. It was obvious that he felt out of place. I joked with him, “Don’t let us scare you!” With that simple comment, he practically spilled out his deep wounds that a church had caused after he came back from a tour in the military. He swore he would never set foot in a church again, yet here he was with his girlfriend.
There are many like him who have been deeply hurt by someone in the church. It can take years for them to take that first step back toward the Lord.
God’s church is not perfect. In fact, Jesus founded the church on Peter, who was far from perfect. Peter was rash, prideful, impulsive, and full of show. He bragged that he would never ever leave the Lord, that he would die rather than let anything happen to Jesus—and then he denied even knowing him three times in one dreadful night. Jesus knew all this would happen when he told Peter, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). Peter confessed without a doubt that he knew Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God.
The fact that God loves the imperfect church is proof of his perfect and unconditional love for each of us who make up his beautiful bride. His love for us does not falter, waiver, or diminish—no matter what we do, what we say, or how we act. He is patient with us as we learn to love him back. He sent his own Son, Jesus, to lay down his life and spill his blood for an imperfect people who make up an imperfect church. It is all part of God’s perfect love and perfect plan for us to live in love with him for all eternity.
We the church, those who have accepted the perfect gift of love given to us through Jesus Christ, know we belong to God. We are his. We are promised to him. Jesus has already purified us through his blood which was given for us. Now he has gone to prepare an eternal place for us. No one knows the hour or the day of his return. It is up to us to be faithful to him as we live out our lives waiting for the promised wedding banquet.
Jesus told the parable of 10 virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom (Matthew 25:1-13). Five were foolish and didn’t take enough oil to replenish their lamps when they had to wait longer than expected. Five were wise and took extra oil and were prepared and faithful to wait. The ones who were ready went with the groom to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
Our lives belong to the bridegroom. It is up to each of us to be ready at all times for his return because none of us knows the day or the hour he will come to get us. We have been given pure, white wedding clothes washed clean through the blood of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 22:1-14, Jesus tells us how vital it is to have wedding clothes as we come to the wedding banquet. There is no way to enter the kingdom of God without those pure, white clothes.
The church cannot make our own wedding clothes pure and white. We cannot be pure without the blood of Jesus Christ. Even if we dress up in our “Sunday best,” it will never be good enough to go to the wedding. We can’t whitewash ourselves through well-meaning programs, ministries, sermons, and classes unless we have accepted the perfect gift from our perfect groom. It is only through the perfect love and sacrifice of Jesus that we can have the pure wedding clothes needed. We make ourselves ready by washing our robes in the blood of the Lamb.
Revelation 19:7, 8 tells us: “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”
As his bride, we need to be faithful and fruitful while waiting for our groom. Jesus told Peter if he really loved him then “feed my sheep” (John 21:15-19). He’s telling us the same. He calls each of us to share his love, to hold up the cross of Jesus so others may be washed in his blood, to feed others the bread of life.
Jesus’ last words before he left this earth were for us to go and make disciples. He wants us to be about the business of making his kingdom come by shining out his light to the world, by building relationships of love that cause others to thirst for their own relationship with the Lord, by sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with the lost.
When we, the church, are faithful in sharing Jesus with others, we are not only beautiful to our groom but to a lost and darkened world. “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come, and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:17).
When the church is faithful in sharing Jesus, we are keeping ourselves ready for our Lord’s return. We are keeping our wedding clothes white and pure. We can look forward with anticipation to our wedding banquet with our Lord.
There is nothing more beautiful than a bride who knows she is loved. Let us bask in the glory of God’s love for us. We may not be perfect—the church has many flaws—but God’s perfect love turns our imperfections into his glorious beauty because he loves us with an everlasting love.
Eva Juliuson is a freelance writer in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
I Love the Church
When you look at the church—nearby and around the world—it’s easy to see factions, divisions, misunderstandings, and all sorts of ugliness. But that’s not how God sees it.
Write a love letter to the church.
Set aside your grievances and grudges and focus on what’s beautiful and honorable. You can focus on your local congregation or write to the global church. If you’re having a tough time with the church right now, your letter may be short and sweet; if you’re feeling good, it could be a longer letter. Either way, focus on being genuine and positive. Ask God to show you beauty where it’s all too easy to see a mess.