Why Do We Love the Church?
by Eric Watkins
What is the most beautiful thing in this world? We have all seen awe-inspiring sights of beauty such as snow-covered mountain ranges with their peaks reaching into the sky, or perhaps a cascading waterfall nestled among deep, verdant trees and shimmering rocks. Perhaps we might think of the ocean resting after a storm under a majestically painted sunset.
But there are things in this world even more beautiful than what we find outdoors. We could think of our spouses and children, the sight of whom causes the most beautiful things outdoors to pale by comparison. And the Bible confirms this: when God created all things, He saved His best stroke of artistic beauty for last. The creation of man was His most glorious, crowning achievement.
While all of these things are undoubtedly beautiful, there is something in this world more beautiful than nature and more beautiful than the general creation of man. To put our first question a little differently, what does God say is the most beautiful thing in this world? The answer is not the ocean, the mountains, or the sky, nor is it man in general. When God looks down from heaven upon this world, the most beautiful thing that He sees is his church.
Paul gives us a glimpse of God’s delight in the church when he commands husbands to love their wives in a Christlike way. A husband’s love for his wife is a particular love, a sacrificial love, a love that reflects Christ’s love for His church. Paul does not tell husbands to love their wives as Christ loves creation, nor are husbands to love their wives as Christ loves people in general; rather, they are to love their wives “as Christ loved the church.” Every Christian husband ought to be challenged to love his wife better and better the more that he contemplates Christ’s love for the church.
But at the same time, this passage should also compel all Christians to love the church more and more. Do we really love the church? We all have reasons not to. The church is glaringly imperfect. It can be difficult to bear at times. It can disappoint and even hurt us.
Yet while all these things are true, Christ never stops loving the church or finding her beautiful. In fact, Christ’s love for the church is not based upon anything in the church itself. His relationship to His church is based upon His own love, righteousness, and sacrifice. The church is beautiful to Christ because He loves her, and because He shares his life and glory with her. He promises to always love her, to never leave or forsake her. He continually washes and sanctifies the church that she might be more and more pleasing to Himself.
Christ loves the church infinitely better than any husband loves his wife. However imperfect the church is, in Christ’s eyes, she is the most beautiful thing in this world. This is why we love the church; in doing so, we are loving that which He loves most in this world.