Ah, June! The month the bride’s been waiting for. She’s made sure everything on her checklist has been taken care of and she is ready for the big day. Her desire is to be the most beautiful sight her bridegroom could possibly imagine. The thought of something being left undone, or of her glorious gown being anything less than spotless, is horrifying. She has worked diligently on the plans, and one adoring look of approval from her bridegroom will make it all worth it.
We Christians, too, have a wedding day to look forward to. We are called the Bride of Christ and we anticipate the day we are presented to our Bridegroom. Isaiah 62 and Revelation 21 both use a mixed metaphor for God’s people. In both, we are described as a city and a bride. The Isaiah passage indicates that some work needs to be done for the city/bride to be ready for presentation, while Revelation depicts the glory of the completed work.
So, how do we get from the one image (needing “a little work”) to the other (a completed work)? How do we make sure that we stand before our Lord “not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing” on our wedding dress? How are we ever going to be completely “holy and without blemish”? According to Ephesians 5:22-33, we do this by submitting to Christ and allowing Him to work in us. We become one with Him, as a bride becomes one with her husband, and we allow Him to “nourish and cherish” us. We let Him complete the work of cleansing us and sanctifying us, or setting us apart, to be a people who reflect His glory.
I don’t know what your experiences have been with weddings, but I have found it is rare for the bridegroom to be very active in making the preparations. That duty falls mostly on the bride. It is quite a relief to know that in our marriage to Christ, the Bridegroom takes on most of the responsibility for getting us ready.
A key element in this preparation of the Bride is the Word of God (Ephesians 5:25,26; John 17:14-19). We must learn to live by it and not by the world’s standards. When we do the Bible study for the Encourager’s Devotional Series this month (next Wednesday), you will notice how often the importance of the Word is highlighted.
In the study, you will also see how often speech is an indicator of godliness, or lack of godliness. How important our speech is as we strive to become encouragers. Not only must we try to increase the output of encouraging words, but we must also be careful to stop ourselves from being involved in speech which tears down and discourages. All our acts of encouragement, all “religious” deeds are useless if we do not control our negative speech (James 1:26).
The Bride of Christ is a corporate image, much like the Body of Christ image in scripture, a body made up of many individual members. We will stand before our Bridegroom together, so our relationships are vital to our “appearance” as we present ourselves to Him. The “spots” mentioned in several of the texts we’ll study are actually individual people who help make up the Bride. Only a spotless Bride is acceptable on that great day. We must take seriously our individual responsibility in presenting a holy, unblemished Bride. And we can rejoice in the fact that our Bridegroom is a loving one, who not only asks us to prepare but promises to help make us ready!
For ways to encourage someone this month, let’s take a look at that bridal checklist: something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Since the Bride of Christ is the focus here, I have revamped the list a bit to focus on people instead of things.
Someone Old – This could be the physically aged, or those older in the faith. The aging need encouragement as they begin to feel isolated and less useful. They want to know they have value and are still important to the family of God. Those who are “mainstays” in the church, who’ve been around a while and serve as anchors, should be encouraged to keep up the good work. Or maybe you just need to thank an old friend for always being there.
Someone New – Here, I’d like us to think about the newcomers to the faith or to our churches. Have you met them yet? Have you gotten to know them better? Have you asked them to join you in any church activity or ministry? What about new converts? Have you sent encouraging notes to them? What about those who have come to Christ in the past year or two? Have you asked them how they are doing in their faith walk? Maybe you can even think of someone who would be “new to you” – someone who’s been around the church awhile but you’ve never really gotten to know. Can you at least determine to stay an extra half hour or so after church one Sunday in order to have more in-depth conversations? And finally, what about encouraging someone new to come to church with you?
Someone Borrowed – Okay, maybe I’m stretching it a bit here, but how about letting someone know what you really admire about them – a personality trait or ability that you’d like to “borrow” from them? Or what about someone you have actually borrowed time or other resources from, someone who’s a good listener or who has been helpful to you in some way? Let them know their giving has been appreciated.
Someone Blue – There are many around us who are suffering. One of the hardest things for someone in a long-term crisis is the time after the initial showering of attention and concern. Kind words, a listening ear, or a small gift can go a long way in seeing someone through a difficult time.