Imagine your wedding day or any beautiful wedding ceremony that you have attended. Think of the husband's eyes—completely focused on his bride. He is captured by her beauty and stands ready to give all his life to her. Similarly, the bride's eyes are only for her groom, and as she steps toward him, she readies herself to make the same lifelong commitment to him.
This earthly picture of all-consuming love points us toward a much greater reality. For a husband's passion for his bride gives us a small glimpse into God's love for His heavenly bride, the church.
Just imagine the impact the church could have on society today if we shifted from serving ourselves to wholeheartedly serving Christ's bride.
Our God loves His bride with an everlasting love that is stronger than death, and He has demonstrated His commitment to her by not sparing His own Son (see Jeremiah 31:3; Song of Songs 8:6; Romans 8:32). Just as a husband cares for his wife, Christ deeply cares for His church. The moment you became a Christian, you yourself became a part of His bride. Therefore, if we love Christ and our own selves, we cannot be indifferent to her plight. After all, we are one with her just as a husband and wife are one (see Ephesians 5:31-32).
Your local church is the visible expression of the bride of Christ. The local church is where God is calling you to express your commitment to Him and your passion for Him, serving others as He has first served you. "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters" (1 John 3:16). Just as Christ first gave up His life for us, we are now called to give up our lives for the church—pouring ourselves out in fervent acts of sacrificial love.
But rather than committing to love the bride, many are still dating the church. They bounce from congregation to congregation, never going deeper than surface-level connection. Maybe they attend somewhere for a year or two, but then someone gets on their nerves or the preacher says something they don't like. And then off they go to the next church.
Their relationship with God is self-centered, and thus their relationship with the bride of Christ is also self-centered.
They want the benefits of belonging to a church without the cost. They want the privileges of community without the responsibility. And at the end of the day, it is all about them and their needs. So they continue to date different churches, never fully committing to one. They never learn what it means to love sacrificially.
Beloved, Jesus Christ did not establish His church to just meet your needs. No and a million times no! The reason we attend church as believers is not primarily to get our needs met (though we do), but to glorify Jesus Christ and love our brothers and sisters in Christ, that together we might make Jesus known to a lost world—just as He told us, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" ( John 13:35). And in the process of losing our lives for others, we ourselves are uplifted and made more like our Savior.
Just imagine the impact the church could have on society today if we shifted from serving ourselves to wholeheartedly serving Christ's bride. The atmosphere of our entire nation would change. But we cannot love the bride of Christ by coming to church 10 minutes late and leaving 10 minutes early. Pouring out our lives for the church means being actively involved—whether that means coming early to pray, staying late to clean, serving in the beleaguered children's ministry, or having lunch with that person we'd rather ignore.
Let us seek to be as devoted to Christ's bride as He is to us. Let this be our New Year's resolution for 2018— to not spare our own lives, but give them up in sacrificial service to those for whom Christ died. Jesus is worth it all, and every deed done in His name will not be forgotten, but will be rewarded on that last day when He splits the skies to call us home at last. May you and I be found faithful—fully committed to Christ and His church—on that great day.