What Makes a Church? Part 4

by Sep 23, 2008

The church is a bride.

Christ loves the church just as a husband should love his wife (Ephesians 5:25). After Jesus returns, the uniting of him to his church will be like a wedding ceremony (Revelation 21:2).

I know a few things (only a few) about marriages and wedding ceremonies. I was on the mainland this weekend performing a wedding, and I challenged the couple to strive for things in their relationship that are identical to the things a group of believers (the church) should maintain in their communal relationship with Christ:

A marriage ceremony is an exchange of ownership: “I am my beloved’s and he is mine.” Each person gains the right to have a say in their spouse’s schedule, commitments, and priorities. They get exclusive rights to the other person’s attention and affection.

There are hundreds, maybe thousands of things competing for our attention and affection every day. The question we should ask for each one is, “Will it bring me closer to Jesus or farther?” Here’s the cheat sheet I use most of the time: Things I see on TV = farther. Things in my earthly family and church family = closer.

I need to confess that I flinch whenever I get the “Jesus is my boyfriend” vibe from worship songs. I throw up a little in my mouth whenever I hear songs like “In the secret, in the quiet place… I want to touch you…” Bleeeccch.

Still, I can’t get around the fact that Paul uses a sexual metaphor in Ephesians 5 to describe the relationship between Christ and the church: “A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

Healthy physical intimacy in a marriage is dependent on intimacy in all the other areas: emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. Physical intimacy is the ultimate act of vulnerability; making yourself completely naked in front of the other person. It reflects a relationship marked by transparency and trust. That’s the kind of intimacy Christ desires with his church.

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord … as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” (Ephesians 5:21-24).

In a healthy marriage, a husband never forces his wife to submit. His wife gladly submits because she is overjoyed to have a humble, sacrificial, God-exalting husband leading the family. Our submission to Christ as a church should come out of a deep appreciation for his sacrificial love for us.