‘True friends of Christ do not flirt with his Bride; they point her to him.’
This was tweeted by Mike Reeves (Theological Advisor for the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship) some time back, and I’m not sure whether it was his original thought, but I have found it to be a powerful phrase, and a helpful one to think through.
John the Baptist gives the inspiration for this attitude in John 3 when he says: ‘The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.’
Working for a church can have many pitfalls, and one of them is pride. (And that’s true, whether you’re a volunteer or a member of the staff team!) As I teach people about the gospel, it can easily and gradually become too much about me, and so this is a wonderfully reorienting piece of wisdom!
I share it because I think it’s a helpful thing for every Christian to remember as we seek to point people to Jesus.
Whatever the opportunities that God gives us – in our place of work, time amongst friends, or as we serve at church, our role is never to obscure the one whom we follow and speak about. In fact it’s as inappropriate as a bridegroom’s best man flirting with the bride-to-be!
How faithful God is… how exclusive we must be
The Bible often describes the church of God as the bride of Christ. (Check out Isaiah 62.4-6 and Revelation 19.6-8.) It’s a wonderful picture that captures how loved we are by God, how faithful he is in his commitment to us, and how exclusive we must be in response. As we anticipate the glorious future, we are being prepared as we wait for our bridegroom to return.
Now you may be thinking, ‘I would never try to obscure Jesus!’ But I think we do it all the time in small ways. It’s why the coveted roles in church are the visible ones, and why we envy the ‘exciting’ testimonies of some Christians, and perhaps one of the reasons we are so keen to appear to each other, and to our non-Christian friends as perfect Christians, worthy of our salvation.
We begin to forget that this story is not really about us, but about him!
No Christian should seek after ‘guru’ status when it comes to serving and following Jesus Christ! I must never ‘flirt’ with God’s church, seeking to draw people to myself. My role is simply to proudly and excitedly present the bridegroom to the bride and vice versa. This is not about me; my job is to be at work in the background, a friend of the bridegroom, doing all I can to praise him, while greatly looking forward to the wedding!
As keen to clean the church toilets as to have an upfront role
Knowing this should free us from the numbers game, and from needing people’s approval too much. It should mean that as we teach and serve in various ways in God’s church as we are all called to do, it’s not about us!
I always pray that God would preserve in me a willingness to serve him however he should ask, so that I would be as keen to clean the church toilets for the gospel, as I would to have an upfront role! (I still have some way to go on this one!)
I want nothing that I do in the name of Jesus to detract from him and the love that his bride feels for him. All my efforts contribute to showing him in a true light, to speaking of his wonderful attributes, and reminding his bride of his words and promises.
In the words of the Charles Wesley hymn we sometimes sing at church:
Happy, if with my latest breath
I may but gasp His Name,
Preach Him to all and cry in death,
‘Behold, behold the Lamb!’