Church Language: Don’t Tarnish the Bride

I’ve never felt more beautiful in my life than when I walked down the aisle at my wedding. My husband’s eyes shone so much I could see them from the end of the aisle—in candlelight.

But honestly, more than the love-struck eyes, I loved my dress, a simple streamlined design. Rouching gathered behind the waist, and a row of pearl buttons extending from mid-back to hips, added soft sophistication. A band of lace across the neckline whispered femininity. And my veil—unadorned netting—rested atop my curls and traversed down to the floor, pooling behind me.

How can a bride not feel beautiful, dressed to the hilt and loved beyond limit? I haven’t always been a beautiful bride. In those eight and a half years since my wedding, I have complained, spoken harshly, angered, blamed, and pouted. Not beautiful. Not at all.

We, the Church, haven’t been a beautiful bride, always. We are still the bride, though. And the position of bride is one of influence and unchallengable worth.

This is why it bothers me when I hear Christian songs—well intended, I’m sure—pick on the Church. This seems to be a popular trend lately. (Can you imagine picking on a bride at her wedding?) A subtle attitude of condemnation comes through when artists write songs intending to challenge the Church to rise up, rid itself of laziness, and start serving. Or sometimes a song will suggest that the Church is judgmental. I recognize that intentions are good, and that many Christians may enjoy these songs. I don’t attack the artists or their intentions, but I do raise a question. What is the underlying message we are sending about the Church?

Let me put forth one example: If We are the Body, by Casting Crowns.

A traveler is far away from home
He sheds his coat and quietly sinks into the back row
The weight of their judgmental glances
Tells him that his chances are better out on the road

But if we are the body
Why aren’t His arms reaching?
Why aren’t His hands healing?
Why aren’t His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren’t His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way?
There is a way

This rubs me wrong. In defense of Casting Crowns, I understand they are issuing a challenge to the Church to be welcoming. It’s an important challenge. People are watching us, waiting to find something negative to say about us. And yet, I’ve been in the Church my whole life. His arms are reaching. Not perfectly, but it’s happening. The Church is God’s tool for Kingdom advancement. Many congregations are alive, missional, and welcoming.

Is there room for growth in the Church? Absolutely. Can the Church be judgmental? Definitely. The Church sins. We are still waiting for the working out of our redemption, the final act of salvation.

But please, let’s be careful in the ways we seek to challenge the Church to action, to purity. Let’s remember her beauty, her position as bride. Let’s not grieve the Groom who loves her.

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4 thoughts on “Church Language: Don’t Tarnish the Bride

  1. Sondra,

    Thank you for a very helpful, balancing insight. It is not surprising when those outside the Church criticize the bride (e.g. I Peter 4:4). And, as you bring out, we have our flaws, still needing our Lord’s cleansing work on His bride (Eph. 5:26-27). But it seems like our role within the church is to encourage each other and spur one another on to love and good deeds (Heb. 3:13 and 10:24). May your call for building one another up in the faith be heard by many.

    Dad (also a pastor and part of the Bride of Christ)

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    1. Thanks, Dad. I like your words about encouraging and building each other up. Sometimes people think that the way to encourage is the be provocative and “devil’s advocate” like, but that’s really not what encouragement looks like in scripture, or what fruit-of-the-Spirit speech should be.

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  2. Sondra,
    This is beautifully written. I have been disheartened when I’ve heard comments made by church members (not at Christ Community Church-Montreat, btw) of those “church members who think they are Christians, but really aren’t”, recalling to mind Christ’s warning to the Pharisees that they would devour one another with their backbiting. I am certain that often times because the Church will do things in such a way that “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing”, can be mistaken for lack of response to Christ’s call by bystanders. I agree, too, with your father that the best vehicle to the spurring on of love and good deeds occurs through encouragement.
    I’m thankful to be a part of the healing hands and going feet at Christ Community Church-Montreat and St. Timothy’s Anglican Church. Remember Pastor Richard’s sermon several weeks ago when we looked at John’s vision recorded in the book of Revelation to the seven churches of Asia Minor? He pointed out the fact that Christ was present, active and moving within the Church during his vision of the last days. Not rocket science but how we can miss the obvious! I’d rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, as the Psalmist declared.
    I bet you were a gorgeous bride. We can look forward to yet another, more glorious wedding celebration!

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    1. Thanks, Suzanne. I’m glad you’ve not experienced that at CCC-Montreat. It takes a lot of grace to respond when people speak negatively about the Bride, so that we don’t accidently do the same. Christ is active in His Church!

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