I read a story recently about a newly married couple. All was going well until the morning after the wedding, when the groom awoke to find himself lying beside a lady he didn’t recognise. At first he thought she was an imposter. Slowly he realised this was indeed his new wife, sans make-up. The guy was so stunned that he’s now suing his poor wife to the value of £13,000 for ‘fraud and psychological suffering’!
That’s an astonishing story, which highlights how selfish and superficial people can be! A story like this is the product of a culture that’s obsessed with image, and blinded by ridiculous expectations.
We’re so skilled at the art of image-management. We take dozens of snaps before settling on one we’re happy to Instagram (and only then, once imperfections have been filtered out). We edit our rambling thoughts into 140 character soundbites to make us sound more cogent than we truly are. We project the image we want people to see and give the impression that’s us in our natural state.
But there are moments where the make-up comes off and we’re seen for how we truly are. And the fear is that we, like the poor bride, won’t find acceptance and love, but rejection.
This can also be true of the church. I’ve been in churches for years, and I’ve seen things that make me think Jesus is entitled to way more than £13,000 for the ‘psychological suffering’ we’ve caused him!!
But despite its flaws Paul writes that, ‘Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.’ (Ephesians 5:26-27)
This is a beautiful promise. Jesus is the perfect groom, who’s not only committed to accepting his church, warts and all – but transforming us into something beautiful.
But the idea that Jesus wants to beautify his church doesn’t get us off the hook. If you read the whole chapter you’ll find it’s full of instructions to us: follow Jesus’ example; love one another; live pure lives; use your words to build others up, rather than tearing them down; put other people’s needs before your own… and so on. We have an active role to play.
My suggestion: throw yourself into community. Find a place where you can build relationships and grow spiritually. Then work hard in that group to foster honesty and authenticity. Be real with people. Create deep friendships that bring out the best in one another.
Maybe then we can learn to appreciate and demonstrate true beauty.
Image: Bride & Groom by Neldy G, used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
This post was originally written for ChristChurch London