From day one in our marriage, there’s one thing that’s been unspoken between my bride Bec and I. Something we’ve never had to have a conversation about, make an agreement on, or have someone tell us to do.
What is it?
We only speak well of each other to others. Both of us respect and love each other enough to only speak well, to only speak positive words, to only speak highly of each other to others. To be each other’s greatest spokesperson and cheerleader!
The other day, a random stranger found out I was a pastor and he immediately started talking to me about the church he attends. He shared about the leadership roles he’s served in at the church. He shared how long he’s attended the church. He shared about all the different things he’s done for the church. He pridefully handed me his religious resume through words.
(Confession: I was tempted to give him mine and say that I wasn’t impressed with either of ours, but that wouldn’t have been very Jesus-like.)
After sharing all of this, he began to repeatedly criticize his church.
How he’s never been thanked for all that he’s done.
How the church is making all kinds of bad decisions.
How the staff should be paid less.
How the church is trying to reach people they shouldn’t be trying to reach.
How everyone who comes to church is fake.
For 20 minutes straight, he went from one thing to the next, criticizing and belittling every aspect of his church, the staff and the people who worship there—a church that he still attends. Verbally bashing his church to a complete stranger. (Note: Nothing unbiblical or morally wrong about the church was ever mentioned.)
Once he finished, the questions I wanted to ask him were:
Do you speak the same way about your wife?
Do you speak the same way about your bride?
And one step further, would you mind if I, a random stranger, spoke the same way about your wife? If not, why would you do so about the Bride of Christ?
After talking with this guy, honestly, I felt sick.
I was grieved.
I was hurt.
I felt the same way you feel when someone is using words to destroy a close friend or family member you love behind their back. Even though I had no personal ties to the church he was criticizing, even though it wasn’t my church, my bride, everything in me just knew this was wrong.
You don’t talk about your friends, about your loved ones, but especially, you don’t EVER talk about your bride or groom like that.
Now, keeping churches in mind, I just have to ask: Is my bride, Bec, perfect? Let me answer a different question actually, “Is my bride’s husband perfect?”
Nope, far from it! Trust me, the dude needs serious help! He laughs at his own lame jokes. He’ll talk to anyone who has a pulse for hours (even if they’re trying to walk away). He never sits still for longer than five minutes. He’s far from perfect!
Here’s something important to note with all of this: Speaking well of someone to others is completely different than glossing over the truth or ignoring faults. It’s completely different than “speaking truth in love” to a loved one.
The truth is, more than anyone else, Bec is the main truth-teller in my life. How is this different? When she speaks truth, she speaks it to me, not about me. Lovingly. Respectfully. Humbly. Gracefully. Because she loves me. It’s not a hand grenade being thrown from afar. She’s committed to us and our relationship. Again, it’s done out of love. (Note: We don’t have a perfect marriage. We say “I’m sorry” to each other almost daily. We are, without question, a work in progress).
Now I just gotta ask: If you’re a part of a church, how do you speak about your “bride”? Is it in an uplifting and encouraging way or is it critical and belittling?
Are your words filled with grace, always looking for the positive?
Maybe a better question, how are you talking about someone else’s church? Someone else’s bride?
I pray we’d be slow, very slow, to speak poorly about the Bride of Christ.
Speaking of the church I’m a part of, Embrace, my bride, she’s beautiful. I’ve been with her for more than 11 years now (Embrace started in September 2006), and through this time I’ve seen the good, bad and ugly in her. I’ve been blessed and also hurt by her. And yet, I’ve never loved her and the people that make up the body more than I do now. She has a heart for the lost. She’s more concerned about others than she is about herself. She’s a hospital for the sick. She loves Jesus.
I truly believe she’s changing lives and is bringing glory to God, her Groom.
This article originally appeared here.