The relationship between Christ and the Church is a picture of mutual servanthood and submission.
Jesus, the Bridegroom, Serves the Church
Jesus serves the Church by demonstrating His unending love, humility, mercy, goodness, kindness, graciousness and faithfulness. He leads by example. There is no selfishness in Him. He is concerned about the needs of His Bride. He laid His life down for His Bride, and He wants us to lay our lives down for one another.
Jesus is very patient. He is not harsh, sharp or easily angered. He cherishes His Bride, fostering her with tender loving care, with the implication of brooding over her like a hen would brood over her chicks keeping them warm and safe. Jesus nourishes and nurtures His Church.
Jesus speaks tenderly to His Bride and demonstrates His affection and warmth. He romances her and tells her how radiant and beautiful she is (Song of Solomon is a picture of Jesus and the Church). He washes and cleanses her by the Word (Ephesians 5:26). He takes her to the banqueting hall (Song of Solomon 2:4). He provides for her, protects her, affirms her, and ministers to her needs. He shows her honor and respect. He never overrides her will or forces her to do anything, but allows us to have free will.
Jesus leads without dominating His Church. When we call out to Him, He is not too busy to listen to us. He is there for us. He is faithful forever, even if the Church is not. Jesus’ actions of servanthood and humility provokes in His Bride the desire to follow in His footsteps.
The Bride (Church) Serves Jesus
There is a distinction between being a church-goer and being the bride of Christ. A person can be religious and not even be saved. The Bride is in love with Jesus and seeks to do His will.
The Bride serves her Bridegroom (Jesus). She finds out what pleases Him the most and then does those things.
The Bride serves her Lord by giving herself wholeheartedly to Him. When He draws her to come and spend time in His Presence and share spiritual oneness with Him in the King’s chambers, she does not reject or refuse Him. She says yes with gladness of heart not because she feels obligated, but because she loves Him and delights in her Bridegroom. She does not always wait to be beckoned to the Secret Place, but she comes to Jesus on her own because He likes to be woo’d too. Although Jesus is God, He has a need to feel and know He is loved and wanted.
The Bride serves Jesus by loving Him in the way He desires to be loved. She shows Him utmost respect and honor. She reveres Him, holding Him in high esteem. She does not say things or act in a manner which demeans or causes shame to or belittles her Lord or His Name. She waits in His Presence and ministers to Him. She tells Him how beautiful He is. She lavishes Him with praise and compliments. She obeys Him and submits to His leadership. She has a heart of submission and sensitivity to His Spirit. She chooses to relinquish control and lets Him be in the driver’s seat.
The Bride serves the Lord by dying to the flesh and self in order to live for the Spirit. She takes on His Name and her life is no longer her own. She puts Christ’s interests and plans above that of her own. She chooses to decrease, so that Christ may increase. She chooses to yield to God’s authority and leadership. The Bride adores and greatly admires her Lord. She keeps His first command – which is to love God with her whole heart and to love her neighbor as herself.
The relationship between Christ and the Church is a type and picture of the kind of relationship God desires between a husband and wife. Pride, sin, selfishness, hurts, divisions, the cares of this life, financial problems, incompatibility, sexual impurity (such as adultery and porn) and many other factors have robbed man and wife from experiencing the ideal union that God originally intended in the Garden of Eden.
The Word is full of encouraging news and truths of how to have successful relationships in marriage and with family and friends. The Word teaches that in order to have joy and peace in our relationships that it requires us to, first and foremost, walk in agape (or agapao) love. (The difference between agape and agapao is that agape is a noun and agapao is a verb – action word. Both words have the same meaning.)
Agape requires us to die to the flesh and put others first. It requires servanthood and humility. It means to treat people right and esteem others higher than ourselves. It means to consider the welfare of others and not only our own interests.
An excellent book that I would highly recommend if you are married, or would like to be married, is entitled How To Make Your Marriage Exciting by Charles and Frances Hunter. They were married for almost 40 years before Frances went to be with the Lord, and then Charles passed on a year later. They claim that in their marriage, they never had an argument or cross word. In their book they discuss some key points the Lord taught them in order to have a fulfilling marriage relationship. Everything they teach involves demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit (Galations 5:22-24).
From the intimate relationship they had with the Lord, it carried over into their marriage. First John 1:7 says, “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
The chapter titles in their book are: Be honest … Be loving … Be patient … Be courteous … Be considerate … Be fun to live with … Be desirous (avoid doing things that irritate your spouse, be well pleasing to your partner) … Be forgiving … Be loyal … Be one (be a united team) … Be married (intimacy of spirit, soul and body) … Be in harmony with God’s plan (doing God’s will) … In sickness and in health, for better or for worse (commitment).
Honor, Respect, Courtesy and Consideration
Agape love and servanthood means to show honor, respect, courtesy and consideration to one another. NOT doing these things causes resentments and can spoil a relationship very quickly. Even little things which another finds to be inconsiderate can lead to heated arguments.
In family relationships, if you have been repeatedly told that something you do (even if it seems insignificant to you) is irritating or inconsiderate, then on your part it is a form of not showing courtesy. If you continue to do it, then anger builds up for the other person/s. The other family member/s will feel like they are not being respected or shown honor. In one way, part of love is to overlook quirks and not let it bother you so much. Yet another part of love is to be sensitive to the feelings of others.
What if we show love to others but they do not return that same love to us? Although it causes us pain and hurt when others don’t love us back, God wants us to follow through on our part. When we stand before Jesus someday, we will have to give an account of our own life and our own deeds. When He asks us if we loved others, then we will be able to say, with confidence and boldness, “YES”!