3 November 2000

I still remember seeing her for the first time that day.

My bride. Dressed in white. Stunning. Beautiful. Radiant. I gasped, momentarily lost for words. This was my bride. Mine. She was dressed for me.

“As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:5).

I think I’ve been getting it the wrong way round. I knew the Church was described as the “bride of Christ”, but I guess I always assumed God looked at marriage and thought: ‘You know what, that would make a great illustration for how Christ feels about his people.’

But what if it’s the other way round?

What if God, in knowing how Christ felt about his people, thought: ‘I need something to help people get just how much Christ loves them; how committed he is to his people; how incredibly special they are. I know, let’s give them marriage.’

I think that’s closer to the truth.

Joshua Harris writes in Why Church Matters: “God invented romance and the pursuit and the promise of undying love between a man and a woman so that throughout our lives we could catch a glimpse of the intense love Christ has for those he dies to save. What passion he has for his Church!”

I’ve got to admit, this stretches me.

Let me change tack for a moment. Have you ever prayed that you would have God’s heart for the Church?

Up until a few years ago I hadn’t. What’s church anyway? A sermon. Some songs. A cup of instant coffee (filter, if you’re lucky). Ninety minutes on a Sunday that you could take or leave. An archaic institution. Boring. Irrelevant.

And I guess if that’s what church is for us then we’ll never be excited about it.

But hang on a minute. The Church – God’s people – is Christ’s bride. Jesus Christ is passionately committed to his people. With an ardent, steadfast, jealous love, Christ has stopped at nothing to demonstrate his love for his people; giving up his life for his bride.

The way I looked at my bride was just an insignificantly tiny glimmer of how Christ views his. The way in which I try and express a commitment to my wife today is a hugely imperfect picture and an almost not-worth-mentioning insight into how Christ is committed to his people.

Let me share a light-bulb moment I had a few years ago.

For me, church had always been an event and something Christians were supposed to do.

Then I read Ephesians. Chapter three. Verses 10 and 11.

“His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to His eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I think I began to understand what church was all about.

God had been up to something from eternity past. Forming a people for Himself. A people welcomed to God, made right with God, restored to God (however you want to describe it) in and through Jesus. Everything that was lost in Eden was being restored through Christ. The broken relationship we read about in Genesis was being made right by Christ.

The gospel is the good news that God is putting things back together through Jesus. And the Church is the living, breathing, tangible expression of this…a people called into existence by God, through Jesus, with the purpose of displaying the magnificence of the gospel in all its multi-coloured fullness.  The Church, the people of God, the bride of Christ, is God displaying to a watching world; God announcing to Satan that He wins that the cross is sufficient. The Church, a community of people reconciled to God and to each other, fleshing out the gospel, displaying Jesus to the world.

That was my light-bulb moment.

A question for the married guys: do you remember your wedding day? How did you feel about your bride? Can you remember seeing her for the first time? That’s a little insight into how Christ feels about his bride.

To the ladies, how do you want to be loved by your husband? How do you want him to express his love to you? Through commitment? Nurture? Protection? Encouragement? Cherishing? Am I on the right lines? That’s a little insight into Christ and his bride.

Do you struggle with how you feel about church? Are you bored? Restless? A consumer? Stagnant? Frustrated?

Can I encourage you to fall in love with the bride.

Joshua Harris writes in Why Church Matters: “The strongest argument I know for why you and I should love and care about the Church is that Jesus does. The greatest motivation we could find for being passionately committed to the Church is that Jesus is passionately committed to the Church.”

Written by Simon Lang

Follower of Jesus, husband, father, pastor of Neighbourhood Church Beckenham (a growing bunch of imperfect and ordinary people, who love God, want to get to know him better, and are seeking to be the people that God has made them to be), and part of the team at Insight for Living UK.

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