Many people today, including some Christians, have a view of the church that does not harmonize with the view that Christ had (and would have us to have) toward the church. The church is often viewed today as something that is “optional,” or as a “crutch” for those who are weak-minded, or as a “charitable organization” that takes donations, or as a “relic” of a bygone generation, or as “something people do on Sunday,” or as “something I do to make sure I go to heaven.” The various views that people have of the church could be multiplied ten times over, but can indifference toward the church find any justification in Scripture or in the eyes of Christ?
The Bible tells us plainly how Jesus felt (and still feels) toward the church. Ephesians 5:25 teaches that “Christ loved the church.” The Greek word that is used for “love” in this verse (i.e., agapao) is not merely a love of thought, or of emotion or of word. This love is a love of decisive action, which is prompted by an unconditional, unselfish, self-sacrificing desire to do what is in the best interest of another, and takes actions to meet those needs. In other words, by using that word (agapao), the Bible is emphasizing that Jesus could not have loved the church if He didn’t do something for the church. So, what did Jesus do as demonstration of His love?
The rest of Ephesians 5:25 states that “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” His love for the church prompted Jesus to “empty” Himself of the independent exercise of some divine attributes (Phil. 2:7), leave the “rich” glories of heaven (2 Cor. 8:9), take on “the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3), be “tempted in all points as we are” (Heb. 4:15), “endure hostility from sinners against Himself” (Heb. 12:3), suffer the “piercing” agony and shame of crucifixion (Psa. 22:16; Heb. 12:2), being “hated” by the very beings whom He came to save (John 7:7; 15:18, 24, 25). Yes! Jesus loved the church, prompting Him to “give Himself up” for the church. That overwhelming reality prompts two other questions.
First, do I love the church? I cannot be of Christ if I do not love the church that He loved. But agapao love is a love of action that unconditionally sacrifices for that which is loved. That leads to the second question: what do I give up for the church? Read the paragraph above again—Jesus gave up everything. Do I give up anything for the church—my time, my energy, my heart, my possessions, etc.? Or do I keep the majority of that for myself? Jesus did not hold anything back from the church! Do I?
Most do not view the church the way that Jesus does, and as a result, they minimize that for which Jesus gave His all. May God help us to truly seek the church first (Matt. 6:33).