Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:25-27
When you hear the word "church" what comes to your mind: maybe "hypocrites", "imperfection", "not worth it", "meaning well", "ups and downs", etc, etc. etc.? There are many, many positive and negative thoughts that can flood into a person's mind. But what goes through Christ's mind when he thinks of the Church? Let me answer that according to the above passage: "loved", "sacrificially purchased", "sanctified", "cleansed", "splendor", "perfect", "holy", "without blemish". Wow! How can Christ see the church in that way? The answer is two-fold: because of (a) what He has accomplished for her and (b) what He will accomplish in her.
Jesus, through His perfect death and resurrection, won a people to Himself. In winning a people to Himself, He took them and joined them to Himself in perfect union. That's right, Christ is wedded to His Church. His sacrificial love is the love exemplar of all wedded love. He purchased an undeserving people to Himself and now is fully committed to them, through thick and thin, promising to perfect them and glorify them to mirror His perfect image.
When we look at the state of the church and the imperfections that characterize so much of the Church today, such glowing language seems impossible. But since when has Christ been limited by mankind's failures? The sufficiency of His work on the cross is more than enough for the failures of His people.
It is for this reason that we cannot give up on the Church! The Church is God's idea. The Church has been called, united, and wed to Christ. It is His project! God promises to work through His Church and Christ promises to perfect His Church. That is why it bothers me when people say that they follow Christ but don't bother with the Church. What they don't realize is that you cannot have one without the other! If you have been united to Christ then you have been united to His people. The local church is but a picture of the universal Church and we are called to engage ourselves among the people of God wherever He has placed us.