God’s Church is Beautiful
People are often pointing out the problems and failures of Christians. They are sometimes hypocritical. Christians can and do act in ways that are contrary to the Lord’s standards. No one really denies this. We are still human beings who fail, sometimes miserably. All have sinned and fall short of His glory (Rom 3:23), and God’s people still often struggle. The church is not a museum of perfect people, but a collection of sinners who find forgiveness and rest in Christ.
The beauty of the church lies not in the fact that human beings who comprise it are often failures. The beauty lies in the redemption brought about by the church’s Head, Jesus Christ (Col 1:18). It is through the people who fail that others may actually see the depth of God’s love and grace. God isn’t redeeming flawless people. He is redeeming sinners who continue to rely on His mercy. This is good news for people like me, for though we are not excused in our sins (as Romans 6:1-2 shows), we are given a clear path to renewal and hope. John wrote, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).
What, then, do we stress when we see the people of God failing? What do I stress when I myself fail? Do we wallow in the failures and sins, pointing out how terrible God’s people really are so that we can shame them? Or do we see the hope, the grace, the love and light of God shining through and showing just how great and merciful God is for wanting to provide redemption? And how great is God’s redemption! There is a perspective lesson in this. Can we comprehend the length, width, height and depth of God’s love? We can catch a glimpse of it when we know what kind of people God is willing to love, redeem, and patiently help grow. I am one of them. So was Paul, and so are you if you trust Him. If we allow ourselves to open our eyes, we will actually see God’s wisdom at work through the people He has redeemed, and this is beautiful.
In Ephesians 3:8-19 (please read it), Paul reflects well upon the grace that was “given to me — the least of all the saints — to proclaim to the Gentiles the incalculable riches of Christ.” Though he knew he did not deserve what the Lord did for him, he was called upon to “shed light for all about the administration of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things. This is so that God’s multi-faceted wisdom may now be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavens.” This was his eternal purpose accomplished in Jesus Christ. His wisdom is made known through what He did in the message of the gospel that tells us of His grace and love. To try to comprehend “what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge” is astounding, but God has made it possible to be filled up with His fullness. This is also beautiful.
The beauty of the church, then, is found in God’s gracious and loving work toward us. We are a living testimony to the fact that God can and will redeem sinful people and recreate them into those who continue seeking to grow closer to Him and learning to love others.
One of the great metaphors for the people of God also makes us think of the beauty of the church. The church is the bride of Christ. Revelation points to our ultimate dwelling with God, but it begins now because we are His holy temple. Here’s how John describes the glorious people of God (Rev 21:2-4):
“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’”
What a grand picture of God’s people! Imagine the beautiful bride walking the isle to her husband — and husbands, remember how in awe we were at this beauty! The point is, this is God’s church. We are flawed and in need of forgiveness and healing, but God redeems, makes us new, and adorns us as a beautiful bride.
The next time we are tempted to complain about the failures of God’s people, think of the beauty of God’s people and how God’s wisdom has been expressed through Jesus Christ and the lavishing of His grace upon us.