She is very attractive for you, isn’t she? And you can’t seem to leave her alone. You love being the center of her attention. When she compliments you, you feel like you can conquer the world. You’ve even become an expert on wooing those compliments out of her. You know what she likes to hear. Sure, there are times when she’s not happy with you, and it drives you crazy. You grow self-defensive yet you obsess over winning back her love. But you know exactly what you need to do to make her love you again; you just need to tell her what she wants to hear. There’s just one problem with all of this: she’s not your wife, pastor. She belongs to Jesus. See, the church has a Bridegroom who loves her more than you ever could. He doesn’t love her because of what she gives Him or how she makes Him feel. He loves her because He loves her. And she has everything she needs from Him. He is the one who pursues her in her sin to redeem her. He’s the one who bleeds for her. He’s the one who sacrifices everything, laying down His life for her sake. He’s the one who washes her clean to present her as a glorious bride to His Father. He’s the one who has gone to prepare a place for her and will come back to take her to where He is. He protects her and drives out her enemies. Jesus is the one who showers her with gifts and mercy and love.
To be sure, dear pastor, you are one of those gifts (Ephesians 4:8-14). But, you are a gift with a purpose. You are there to deliver messages to the bride in the stead and by the command of the Bridegroom. You are there to remind her of whose she is and everything Jesus has done for her. She needs to hear of His love. She needs to be warned about those things which will tempt her away. The truth is, this church’s eyes wander very easily. You are there to make sure Jesus is clearly and constantly placarded before those eyes. She needs His Word of rebuke, His Word of forgiveness—His Word, not yours. You are simply there to deliver His gifts.
But, let’s be honest, you have a tendency to get in the way. You like her attention. You like when she is attracted by your words. But, she doesn’t need you to be attractive to her. She doesn’t need you to perform for her. She doesn’t need for you to make her laugh or cry or sing. She doesn’t need you to bind her to your creative preaching style nor your visions for your future together. That is not your job. Your job is to stand in the stead of someone else. You are commanded to do it by the Lord Himself. Your forgiveness is His forgiveness, not yours. Your words ought to be His words, not yours.
She won’t make it easy for you. There will be times when she demands that you perform for her. She loves when you talk about her instead of her Lord and she’ll grow frustrated when you don’t. She will compare you with the other pastors down the street. She’ll want you to make her look like those other congregations with all their “finery of the anklets, the headbands, and the crescents; the pendants, the bracelets, and the scarves” and so forth (Isaiah 5:18-23). She’ll tempt you away from your duty.
Sometimes the world will come by and entice her away. She’ll say she wants to resist, but then beg you to sing the songs that remind her of Babylon. The world will tell you what they think she needs to hear, what they want her to do. They certainly don’t love her, but they do want to use her. They’ll seek to enlist you in enticing her to their causes. And if we are honest, she’s not quick to look away from the world’s advances. She’ll want you to make her more attractive to them.
But it is all temptation you must fight. Your marching orders come from Christ! You are there for her on His behalf. You are there to attack anything that tries to attract her away from her crucified Lord. You are there to expose these wayward desires and kill them dead with the Word of the Bridegroom. You are to baptize, feed, preach, and instruct in the name of Jesus only. Not in your name. You are not to put yourself on display or make a show of your service. You give her Jesus.
I know this is hard, brother pastor. You spend all your time with her, you sacrifice your own family and friends for her. You stay up late with her and arrive early just to make sure she is okay. You do all of this because you think she needs you. And, be honest, you love being needed! But, what she needs is Jesus. Be careful that you don’t forget that she is not yours. She belongs to Christ. Like the world, you may want the church, but Jesus loves the church. Be warned, He won’t stand for anyone who comes between Him and His beloved. So, if you really want to love her, get out of the way, pastor. That’s not your wife! The church belongs to Christ!