You Can’t Love Jesus and Hate His Wife

Orginally published on Tuesday, September 18, 2007 at 7:11 AM
by Todd Rhoades

Ed Stetzer writes: "Get this. I'm standing in a reception line with my wife following a speaking engagement when this guy comes up to me and starts telling me how he's read all my books, has heard me speak on several occasions and told me how influential I've been to his ministry. (Please, go on!) He talks about how he's introduced a number of his pastor friends to all things Stetzer and how they actually traveled across country to be at this event. Wow! But then, he starts verbally ripping on my wife like she's not even standing there. She's right there! He thinks my wife, who has been the love of my life and a partner in ministry for 25 years, is a drain on my ability to influence others. He says she's obsolete and that the "old girl is a little faded." I'm in shock. Suddenly, the cheesy Christian motto of the 1990s flashes through my mind: What would Jesus do? Turn the other cheek? Pray for His enemy? Hand this guy His cloak? I'm about to go Jack Bauer on him..."

I think Jesus would have been ticked - like any normal husband would be. You see, the church is the Bride of Christ. And, you don’t mess with a man’s wife.

The story about my wife is made up. The reality of what professing believers of Christ do to and what they say about His bride - the church - is not. And it is exponentially more serious than saying my wife is “a little faded.” (And I would take that pretty seriously!).

You cannot say you love Jesus and abuse His wife.

Unfortunately, there is a prevailing wind currently blowing across Western Evangelicalism that has caused an ecclesiological (church) drift into dangerous waters. Research stalwart George Barna documented the trend in a longitudinal study released in 2005. One alarming element of the study showed that 70 percent of respondents found their primary means of spiritual expression through the local church in 2000, but by 2025 he predicts those numbers to decrease by at least half. Did you get that? Now, I have some quibbles about the numbers and more about the theology. But, if Barna is right, in less than 20 years, only 30-35 people out of 100 will believe that the church holds a primary significance in their relationship with Christ. That’s stunning for someone who loves the church (like I do).

We were surprised that in our recent research on young adult dropouts, the most common reasons young adults dropped out of church were lifestyle reasons. They got too busy, moved too far away, or experienced some other life change. And the church did not make the new list of priorities. Nice.

My question is how can anyone give even a cursory read of the New Testament and miss the supreme importance given to the church by the One who is most Supreme? Paul says that we were once “alienated and hostile in mind because of [our] evil actions. But now He has reconciled [us] by His physical body through His death, to present [us] holy, faultless and blameless before Him.” Paul goes on to say that he rejoices in his suffering because his suffering is “completing in [his] flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for His body, that is, the church.” (Colossians 1:21-24 HCSB)

Read the rest of Ed’s thoughts here at CatalystSpace.com...

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  There are 11 Comments:

  • Posted by Peter Hamm

    With all due respect to Barna, and much is due as he is such a great mind with regard to these things normally, I really thought he “read into” the data to reach his conclusions in “Revolution”.

    And yes, it bugs me when people “like Jesus but not the church”. IN two ways: First… what’s wrong with the church that they make people feel that way. Second… what is wrong with some of those people.

    I can only worry about the first of those.

  • Posted by

    I agree with Ed that it has definitely become trendy to say you love Jesus and yet not engage in community.  The hidden implication is that the person who does not want to be part of the local body is “too good” for those who are, because “those people” are a bunch of hypocrites.  Living in community IS hard, and you WILL get hurt, and you WILL hurt someone else in the process.  But it is NOT an optional part of following the Master.

  • Posted by Danny Daniels

    This is an interesting article that would contrast this point of view. It is titled… “I am not in love with Jesus”. It speaks to the whole Jesus body being His wife etc. thing.


  • Posted by Daniel

    Danny, I think your link makes a good point, but I don’t think it’s exactly relevant to this post… for whatever that’s worth.
    I think it’s clear that Christians are called to be the Church.  I have trouble imagining what it would be to claim to follow Christ without being a part of his body… while this may be possible in remote places (where there literally is no other Christian for miles around), it’s certainly silliness when our brothers and sisters surround us.  In fact, the primary calling of Christians is to be the Church.  This certainly involves personal holiness, but extends necessarily to communal holiness.  We are called to be sanctified in our relationships to one another, and to serve the world together. 
    The NT’s New Israel symbolism (e.g. 12 disciples for the 12 tribes, etc.) makes precisely this point.
    But of course, loving the Church in word and deed is not the same as always endorsing what it does (particularly when it fails)…

  • Posted by Randy Ehle

    May I offer a counterpoint here?  God has had some pretty harsh words for his own bride throughout scripture - he called her a harlot and an adulteress, just to name a couple rather emotional labels!  In fact, that is pretty consistent imagery throughout the OT, with an entire book (Hosea) devoted to it.  Now, I’m not sure that gives me or anyone else the right to complain, but I think it’s something to consider. 

    I love the church and am grieved by much of what I’ve seen taking place in churches.  A perusal of this site yields plenty of evidence that a lot of local churches have some problems to deal with if we are to be faithful representatives of Jesus who can effectively carry out his commission to make disciples of all nations.  I’m not sure that “obsolete” or “a little faded” are the most appropriate criticisms of the church...but they’re certainly not the worst and I have a sneaking suspicion that God might level some much more devastating criticisms of his bride. 

    Nutshell response:  If the criticism doesn’t fit the church you’re a part of, consider yourself blessed...then see what you can do to help strengthen a church that it does fit.  Chances are, there’s one just down the street from you.

  • Posted by Peter Hamm


    Revisiting the author’s point… two considerations.

    1. The way that God deals with Israel in Scripture is VERY different from the way God deals with his Church in the NT… although he has some harsh words for us from time to time there as well.

    More to the point is…

    2. There is a HUGE difference between God speaking through his prophets about Israel’s or the Church’s sins and the kind of complaining about the church that goes on by sometimes supposedly “prophetic” members of it… don’t you think?

  • Posted by Leonard

    It is one thing to criticize something you have deep love for and a plan to impact and bring about change.  It is quite another to rail against something you hate while saying you love God. 

    God in one very real sense has earned the right to say some harsh things about the church, I also believe many people do as well.

  • Posted by Brian L

    Mark Atteberry, in his book, “The 10 Dumbest Things Christians Do,” hits this as mistake number 1: Slinging Mud on the Bride Christ.

    He talks about how people in the church go about making it hard for the Bride to be beautiful.

    He is blunt but helpful.  I can’t suggest the book highly enough!

  • Posted by Peter Hamm

    When you’re the biggest church in a town, you tend to hear a lot (second-hand of course) about others’ “opinion” of you. I’ve learned four things about this.

    1. Don’t let yourself care about what people say about you and don’t let it lessen your opinion of the ministry that they do.

    2. Never ever ever ever ever say something negative about someone else’s ministry methodology. It’s vital to somebody, even it it’s not relevant to you.

    3. When you start to get upset about what people say about you, go back to number two and then back to number one…

    4. Try to meet and be friendly with as many other ministry pros as you can…

  • Posted by revolutionfl

    Too often, pastors refer to the The Church as their church. I’d go so far as to say that I don’t have much respect for church as an institution, but I do love the church that is the body of believers.

    When pastors get all hot under the collar on this subject, as Stetzer does, I’d say there’s a bit of pride lurking somewhere in there. If it is truly the bride of Jesus, then let Jesus worry about it. Quit sweatin it.


  • Posted by

    There are so many definitations of what a Christian is other than a Christ follower.  Likewise we - Christ followers - have come to define church as the place (building) we go to on Sundays that is a local branch representing part of a bigger organization (denomination), or an independent organization ( non-denominational).  Each organization has a specific set of rules how that organization functions (does church).

    IF you dig deeper into the reasons for the Barna projection numbers (70% to 30%) it is because the organization is not meeting the basic needs of the organization.
    The reason almost 90%+ of our youth are turning there backs on the organization is that it did not fill their needs (foundational and basic Christian doctrine, mentor them, amd make them accountable to a Christian worldview).  We also did not show them how to fall in love with their husband and how to be faithful and true to Him.
    Jesus does love His bride and his bride - people who are Christ followers and strive to love Him more and more each day by being obediant to His direction - ; I believe what distresses Him the most is what the organization has become (not edifying the body and preparing them to evangelize and go to war against the enemy).

    Jesus does love HIs wife what He hates is the affair His wife is having with the organization.

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