By: Rev. Alan Avera, Northeast Presbytery and Executive Director of Christianity Explored USA
Some say love is blind – but it’s not blind love that Christ has for his Church, his bride. He sees the full reality of what she is. But his eyesight is even better than that. He not only sees the reality of what is, he sees the reality of what will be, the reality he is bringing into existence.
First, he sees the reality of what is. He sees clearly that the church is a collection of sinners. Ephesian 5:26 says that he has cleansed her by the washing of water with the word. In Jewish marriage ceremonies, there was a ritual washing for purification. But this reference in Ephesians probably points even beyond that to the washing of baptism.
Jesus not only sees the reality of our sin, but he also does something about it. Jesus said in Mark 2:17, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” And in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” And as he gathers lost sinners into his church, we all need purification.
The washing with water points ultimately to a greater cleansing, the washing with his blood that came from his death for us on the cross. By his death in our place, he took our sin and gave us his righteousness. Jesus always sees the reality of what the Church is. But we don’t always see that reality. You need to understand that you are severely limited if you lack a clear perception of reality.
Some people act like they are surprised when they see sin in the church. But if you open your eyes to the sin in your own heart, you will not be surprised when you see sin in the church.
Other people overlook all the good that Jesus is doing through his church. Since the church is a collection of sinners, it’s not surprising how the church can often disappoint us. If the church has ever disappointed you, it can blind your eyes to the good. Before you can see what Christ sees in the church, you may need to prayerfully re-examine your perceptions.
Christ sees the reality of a collection of sinners he is building into a community of disciples. So Christ sees clearly the reality of what is, but he sees more than that. He sees the future reality of what he will cause His Bride to become.
In Ephesians 5:26-27, the Holy Spirt inspires the Apostle Paul to picture for husbands the way Christ is working in his beloved bride, the Church, to present her in splendor to himself:
That he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 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.
There was a radio advertisement a number of years ago that advertised an acne treatment? The ad tried to get you to picture the beautiful face hiding behind your acne.
What Christ sees is even greater. He not only sees the pretty face hiding behind the acne of your sin, he sees the pretty face, holy and without blemish, that doesn’t even exist yet. It is the face he is bringing into existence through the ministry of his word.
If you can even for a minute picture what Christ sees in the Church, you will have a new respect, a new sense of awe and wonder, for his church. Don’t become content with what the church is now. Try to catch a vision of what it can become.
Several years ago, we completely overhauled the landscaping in our back yard. If you had seen how our back yard looked when we were in the middle of the project, you would have thought we had lost our minds. It was a disaster.
But we had a plan that showed what the backyard would look like when we were done. That plan kept us going through the mess. It inspired us to complete the project.
Resist lowering your expectations for the Church because of how it looks now, while our Lord is in the middle of the project. Remember that Jesus has a plan for his Church, a plan to present her to himself in splendor.
Dr. Ken Priddy used to encourage church leadership to ask this question as they tried to discern God’s vision for their particular church: “How does God want to express himself through this church, in this community, at this time?” He wanted to help church leadership begin to see their church as Christ sees his Church.
This kind of discernment process is crucial because we often fail to appreciate what God can do. We either get comfortable with the way things are, or we so magnify the difficulties of change that we develop low expectations for what this church can become.
Pray for discernment to see the Church like Christ sees the Church, his beloved bride. If you can begin to see as Christ sees the Church, that is a key to loving the Church like Christ loves the Church.