Posted on | July 23, 2011 | 1 Comment
In the last post I gave some background to the term, ‘Prosthetic Church‘, partly as an introduction to the series I hope to write here, partly to understand the term itself. Today I would like to briefly write about what has lead me to address this topic, and why I feel so passionate about it.
Spanning a period of 11 years, and culminating in the year 2008, I had been a lay leader, youth leader, deacon and finally head pastor of a small local church, not including a five year period when I was in seminary in Brazil where I continued active in leadership roles in local churches. From the year 2009 to the present I have not participated in the leadership of any church.
I believe that in the vast majority of churches - to not presume all and thereby offend – the dignity and reputation of the Bride of Christ comes, to greater or lesser degree, in a distant second place to other interests. I have seen countless examples where the honor of the Bride of Christ is treated like a commodity, as soon as the supposed non-negotiability of that honor comes into conflict with human interests and institutionalized sin. It has not been a question of ‘if’, but ‘how much’. To my grief I must say that I have never seen one single church – and to my shame this includes my own active pastorate – where the honor and dignity and reputation of the Bride was paramount. That such a church might exist, is beyond my ken. God grant in His mercy that it does. Harsh words indeed, but I hope, in the series, to validate them.
Why, however, should we care so much about the honor of the Bride of Christ? Why is the honor of the community of believers so much more worthy than the gain and benefits of the individuals? If the church were but a club, then these questions would make no sense at all. The merit of the whole would be but the sum of the merit of the parts, and the interests of the individual would supersede the interests of the whole, were the church but a club. She, however, is not a club. She is not merely the sum of her parts, whereas we, by the grace of God and the blood on the cross, are a part of her sum. She was instituted by God the father as the Bride of His Son, and we were grafted into her by grace. She exists not because we exist, but we by undeserved gift are granted the honor of sheltering under her train.
Let us compare these true and heavenly figures to their human and temporal representations. When a bride walks down the isle dressed in her bridal gown, her purity and beauty, to which all stand in recognition, are the gifts she brings to her groom. She does not bring gifts to gain his love, since he already loves her. She brings her gifts only to honor him. Such great care taken to each and every detail in a wedding is in honor of the bridegroom, by exalting the beauty and purity of the precious bride that he is obtaining and dignifying the ceremony. Disdain for the appearance of the bride – and therefore her value – is disdain for the worthiness of the bridegroom. Stains admitted on her honor, are stains admitted on the honor of the man who will take her to be his wife. Lackadaisical preparation for the ceremony shows a lack of concern for the dignity of the occasion wherein the bridegroom obtains his bride, and hence a lack of concern for the dignity of the bridegroom himself.
How reasonable and sensible it must have seemed to the priests to allow money-changers and pigeon-sellers into the courtyards of the temple! How convenient for them! How convenient for the people! And how profoundly unreasonable and parochial the attitude of Jesus in rejecting them, and how radical and judgmental his use of the whip to express his displeasure! Whatever happened to reason, to cool logic, to gentle teaching? Why such fury over a trifle? For them it obviously was a trifle, but leaders of all churches should take very careful and wary note that it was the only time ever recorded when Jesus reacted to a sin with violence.
Like the priests in the temple of Jerusalem we have let comfortable habit and convenient tradition usurp the honor of the Bride. What appears to be lacking in the contemporary church is not a comprehension of what is due the Bride, but a profound lack of jealousy for her honor. It is to us but a trifle, something of negligible value. In exchange for tangible and intangible benefits we have allowed her to become a marketplace, and have traded her honor for baubles. We are deeply jealous of that which is worthless – our position, our pride, our image, our gain, our prestige, our comfort. The loss of these things leaves us inconsolable. Yet we are so easily appeased upon the loss of things which are priceless – the good name and honor of the Bride. Our sin is our lack of jealousy about that for which God burns in jealousy, and our intense jealousy about those things for which He could not care less.
This series is, in effect, a call to a burning and consuming jealousy for the honor and good name of the Bride, since these are the only means whereby we, as community, might bring honor and glory to the Bridegroom.
May we, as leaders and as members of churches, not find ourselves hoarding rotten, moldy hay, while priceless pearls are trod into the mud underfoot. May we not come before our Bridegroom wearing filthy, soiled rags, and so shame ourselves and dishonor Him. May we learn to be jealous.