When writing to Timothy, Paul explained, “I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (1 Tim. 2:10). The church (in every form in which it is manifested on earth) is certainly subject to criticism and correction; but, those things must always be done out of love and a desire to treat her for what she is in truth–the very bride of Christ.
It has become all too common for men and women to attack the church for all of the ways in which they believe that the church has failed. Almost every day professing believers rant online about the failures of “the evangelical church,” “the Reformed church,” “the Western church,” etc. While recognizing that all of these categories are somewhat artificially manufactured, they are, nevertheless, all subject to a good measure of just criticism. What has recently struck me, however, as something deeply problematic is the way in which those who are most vocal in their criticisms are silent with regard to commendations of these subsets of the universal church.
The visible church–in whatever shapes or forms it may take–is the bride of Christ. We must resist the urge to speak critically of her without giving her the requisite love and care that Jesus wants us to give those for whom he has shed his precious blood. The Psalmist–speaking by the Spirit of Christ–declared, “As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight” (Psalm 16:3). We don’t get to pick and choose which believers we are to love and which ones we are not to love. Jesus exemplified the cry of the Psalmist by perseveringly loving–even to the death of the cross–his oftentimes argumentative, brash and foolish disciples.