Read Ephesians 5:25-27
25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. (NLT)
Whenever we are invited into a family home where children are living, we can usually expect to encounter some mess. Things are out of order, but this is how it must be in places where messy and imperfect people make their home. Display homes are not real homes because people don’t live in them.
When we apply this to church, we recognise that churches comprise people who are messy and imperfect. Jesus has not come to invite neat and perfect people into his gathered community. He invites all without favour. So we have no display churches, just everyday communities populated by people who have their good and not-so-good points.
Our text reminds us that one day the church will be spotless. The implication being that it has a few spots right now. The spots and wrinkles won’t be removed till that day when the creation itself is without spot or wrinkle. To idealise the church is to harm it. To look for the perfect or near perfect church is to pursue what is not ours to possess. Besides, as the old saying goes, once you or I join our idealised perfect church it ceases to be perfect!
Church is not meant to be glamorous or neat or constantly exciting. It is meant to be a community of pilgrims who are on the way but haven’t got there yet. And Jesus loves his spotty church as it is, even as he and we long for the day when it becomes spotless.