One of the amazing themes of my life in Christ has been about his bride. I have much that I could write about that. This past Sunday was a profound addition to my bride moments. :) So, I have recently been attending a Methodist church.. yes, I have much to catch you all up on, don't I?
That can be another blog.
For now, suffice it say that it surprises even me that I am there and I'm there because Jesus is leading me there. :)
In Sunday's service, near closing, the Pastor said something to the effect of the church being the bride of Christ. He was referring of course to the local aspect of the bride, being that particular church. In my head, almost audibly it was so very, very clear, came the words:
"It's a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle."
I paused. Tears filled my eyes and it was all I could do not to weep right there in front of all who would care to witness.
Why would such words affect me in this manner? They were referencing Ephesians 5:27, "That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." A verse that I have known well, a verse that I was raised believing that it applied only to the Baptist church. A verse that I have learned (again referencing many of my bride moments through the years) applies much more broadly to the church at large, to all the saved who have ever been, to the Old Testament saints, to ME.
Why should I be crying at the thought of this church, this particular church being a church like this? Why?
Because the Holy Spirit touched a nerve. He touched a deep nerve. He found a place that I have been mocking, a place where I have still felt myself to be better than others. He found that I have been standing apart from a group of Christians and saying of them, "You are caught up in liturgy, traditions, and religion, you are not worthy to fellowship with me. I am above you." I who have received grace, who understand freedom and liberty am better.
I who have felt deep pain because others have judged me... I turned my condemning eye on a group of Christians simply because of their label.
And what does that make of me? Just as guilty of being religious. Turning my grace and identity into a religion.
And Jesus says, this is my bride. They too are accepted in the beloved. They too are perfect, loved, and righteous. His eyes are not focused entirely upon the religious trappings but upon their heart before him.
And I silently cried realizing that IDENTITY is not affected by ACTIONS.
The bride is the bride. And in this case, I have seen a church of people who are hungering for growth, a leader who is seeking the lost of his community, youth who have been involved in world missions, young adults who want to build real relationships, and worship that was Spirit filled.
I felt a wall crumbling. A wall that I had built between myself and God's people.
I remembered the way I have mocked a dear friend who is working to become a Methodist minister and I wish to beg his forgiveness. I wish to ask forgiveness from many people that I have unknowingly offended. I was blind to this aspect.
I am still me with the same passions and the same heart to free those who are missing relationship with Jesus because they are focused upon the trappings of religion. But I am realizing that I can find people who are free and people who are in bonds everywhere irregardless to labels and denominations. Even those who believe they are free still find bits of chains for the Spirit to remove here and there. I know that I feel freer today than I did a few days ago. Freer to love and serve in capacities that I thought were closed to me.
elbow room - My focus today is to leave room for God to be who He is. Nothing is as it seems and I trust him.