I love watching the groom at weddings. The moment he sees the bride walking down the aisle is a moment of raw and pure emotion. No one ever finds a bride more stunning than her groom. Everyone attending the wedding says how wonderful the bride looks, but she is most beautiful in the eyes of the groom.

Beautiful is not a word you hear a lot these days when describing the Church. We’ve all read headlines about the moral failures of high-profile leaders and have likely seen people in our Church who we admire, bite and devour each other. The messiness of the Church makes it easy to be cynical and despair in finding anything beautiful. In this light, we all need to be reminded of who the Church is, and Dustin Benge’s book, The Loveliest Place: The Beauty and Glory of the Church, may be exactly what you need. Dustin writes, “This book is about the beauty and loveliness of the church” (14). Benge’s goal is ambitious. He aims to give a “thoroughly biblical portrait of the church that derives its life from the sweet fellowship of the Father, Son, and Spirit, creating a community of love, worship, fellowship and mission, all animated by the gospel and empowered by the word of God” (16). It’s a mouthful, but it works. It is strong medicine with a sweet aroma, helping readers see the real beauty of Jesus’ bride.

See the Church Through God’s Eyes

The first few chapters look at the Church from God’s perspective. The Lord isn’t blind to the messiness in the Church. Take a quick scan of Revelation 2-3 and see Jesus walking among the churches, completely aware of how she may walk out of step with who she is. But Jesus loves his bride and is eternally devoted to her. Benge says, “The church receives the full attention and beautifying work of every person of the Trinity. We have a Father and Friend, a Saviour and head, and a Helper and beautifier” (74). Every metaphor the New Testament uses to describe the Church describes it in relation to God. To understand who the Church is and see her beauty, we must behold her through God’s eyes. The Triune God loves and makes the Church beautiful. Benge writes, “The church isn’t lovely because she warrants love from God. The church is lovely because the Father loves her through Christ, who is her mediator (1 Tim. 2:5)” (43). The Church is not lovely on its own; it is beautiful in its relationship to the triune God through Christ.

The Church Is Becoming More Beautiful

The Church is beautiful but not yet complete. Revelation 19 points forward to when, “the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has prepared herself” (Re. 19:7). For now, “like a bride waking up on her wedding day and spending hours perfecting her beauty, every aspect of the Spirits ministry to, in, and through the church is to make her holier and consequently more beautiful” (64). The Spirit is getting the Church ready for her wedding.

We all have a role to play as the Holy Spirit beautifies the Church. As we bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:1), speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15-16), use our spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:4-7), and regularly worship God together, churches grow into who they are and become more beautiful. Benge reminds us that, “The Spirit doesn’t work for us, preach for us, evangelize for us, or even worship for us. He empowers his people to do all these things, but it is their responsibility to walk” (152). We should lament when the Church doesn’t live according to who she is, but that is no excuse to give up on her. We have a role to play, helping our church walk according to who she is in Christ.

The Church is not Plan B, or a plan gone wrong. From before the foundation of the world, God loved the Church and, through her, displayed his wisdom to the powers of the heavenly realms (Eph 3:10). Your Church is not perfect, but looking through the eyes of God, it is beautiful and lovely. Dustin says, “He will never love the Church any less than he always has. He will never divorce the Church. He will never go searching for a more attractive family. He will never move out or move away. The cascade of his love to her will never dissolve, for it runs from eternity past to eternity future” (36). Jesus won’t trade his bride for anything. Grab a copy of The Loveliest Place to remind yourself of these precious truths rooted in God’s Word.

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