The Bride of Christ Deserves to be Treated as Such

In 1997, I was a young youth minister with a growing group of middle and high school students. I was single but actively looking for miss right. My pastor was in his mid-thirties and had bounced from church to church for numerous reasons but landed at the church I was attending. He was eager to grow the small congregation sitting on the land of a large plot with multiple buildings long out of use. The congregation was a-typical for the south, elderly white majority with no middle class type attendees, and youth were free to grow all they wanted as long as they did not disturb the “business” end of the church. Basically, they were in the right place when they were seen a little and heard never. I had grand plans of changing those systemic dysfunctions and resolved myself to help bridge the impasse between the elderly and the youth. My hope was that by doing so, somehow the parents would hear of the changes and come to see what God was doing in our small congregation.

A few months into my tenure, I was introduced to a young woman by way of a mutual friend and the setting was a blind date. She was in no way connected with the church I was working at and knew none of the youth. In 1996, I graduated from the University of Mobile and managed to work three jobs while going to school full time. After graduation, I kept two of the jobs and entered part-time youth ministry. It was at the YMCA in both Mobile and Saraland where I knew and worked with numerous families and children. The mutual friend had a child in one of my programs at the YMCA.

Ashley and I started dating in 1997, three months after I started working at the church. At first, her reception by the youth was awkward. However, she fit in nicely after a couple of weeks and worked really well with young teenage girls in our youth group. I began to see my ministry with the youth as a joint venture between Ashley and I. We added several more youth from the surrounding area and began competing in Baptist Association sports. We were a great team and in the midst of our ministry our love for each other took root and grew.

Traveling every day or every other day to see Ashley became one of my missions in life. Ashley and I were falling in love. It was very apparent to all of our friends, family and youth.

One week, I proposed to Ashley asking her hand in marriage at the location of our first date. Although our growing love was obvious, it met with some unlikely resistance. First, her parents did not approve but this only lasted a few weeks. Second, the youth seemed a little taken aback but this lasted only a few days. Thirdly, the pastor was not happy with our decision.

It was the third one that really perplexed Ashley and me. Almost a year to the day of me starting to work with the youth, the pastor called me into his office one Sunday night. He asked me to have a seat and mentioned that he had some concerns he wanted to go over with me. Not sensing a need to be anxious or angry, I complied without hesitation. Then he said it, the statement that leaves me scratching my head even today: “I just want you to know that Ashley is not the one we picked for you, we do not approve of your decision to marry her.” Now I was angry.

Almost disrespectfully I responded quickly with “Excuse me? What did you say?” He repeated himself almost verbatim. Now standing and leaning over his desk in utter disbelief, I said: “This is not your decision to make. I will marry whomever I feel God wants me to marry and by the way, I resign!” And I walked out of his office rather emphatically.

Ashley was waiting for me in the car and she could tell, I was distraught. However, I struggled with whether to tell her anything of what just happened. The drive to her house was a 45 minute drive. I was silent most of the way. Then we passed one of my old job sites and I had to tell her. I knew I was called to ministry and not working four secular jobs. I also knew that I loved Ashley and that God had affirmed our love many times over in our short 11 month courtship. Together, we sat for an hour in her driveway in complete wonder at the audacity of the pastor and whoever the “we” included. Soon the wondering turned into tears. Ashley was upset at the fact that people actually saw her as less than my bride. God had confirmed to her in a dream that she was to marry me and in the dream we had daughter’s running back and forth in between us at a church.

This was our first exposure as a couple to what some people call the “ugly side” of church. No doubt as many of you read this, you probably are wondering who on earth would do such a thing and how could something like this be represented in a late 1990s church? It is okay, we wondered the same things. In less than two weeks, a church a mile down the road called me to be the Administrator of church activities, Associate pastor and youth coordinator. God was not in wonder about the things we were. He knew full well those who did not represent the Body of Christ in that previous church. Paul’s writing on the Body of Christ was of great encouragement to us during that time of questions.

The youth missed us and could not believe what had happened either. Many of them traveled down the road to be a part of our new work in a larger, more diverse and loving environment. I learned that the Body of Christ is not stymied by a handful of ill-intentioned people. I also learned that those who tinker with the Body of Christ often answer to God for misrepresenting the Bride of Christ. In short order, after we left the previous church, the pastor was asked to leave and the church shut her doors for lack of financial ability and lack of support by attendance to stay open. God had a different plan for that area of Mobile and it involved bringing in a ministry program from another church across town to grow an inner city type ministry that is still flourishing today.

I share this story, for several reasons:

  1. To demonstrate that the Body and Bride of Christ deserve to be treated as such, just as my now wife of 17 years and four daughters later deserved to be treated like a woman betrothed all those years ago.
  2. The Body and Bride of Christ are constantly changing and their purpose is the same as our individual purpose as followers of Christ, we are to do and be about God’s will.
  3. I could use the reasons above to be angry with the Body of Christ but I understand and so does my wife that we are part of the same body. Also, just as Ashley was rejected in a rather remarkable way, many especially in the church at large today are doing the same and rejecting the Bride of Christ. Just as Eve was bone of Adam’s bone and flesh of his flesh, so is the Bride of Christ bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh. The Bride of Christ is the Church!
  4. To reject different aspects and parts of the Body of Christ is to reject the Bride of Christ.
  5. Recently, I heard a great analogy that is fitting for this entry. A Father was correcting his son who had spoken to his mother in some very inappropriate ways. The Father responded to his son in the following way: “You may be frustrated and disrespectful with your mother and that is your problem. However, you will not be disrespectful to my wife.”

We must be very careful, as we communicate our frustration with certain church matriarchal and patriarchal types that do not worship, preach, or teach as we do. We can be frustrated with them on an individual level, on a professional level, on a sound doctrine level but we must never forget that Jesus has a Bride and that Bride is the Church at large. To put it another way, our kids talk to their mothers in some rather interesting ways sometimes, but I am sure if anyone other than our kids spoke this way or did so in public, the one that said whatever it was would not fair too well. I would not want to be the one that offends the Bride of Christ.

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:6

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” 1 Corinthians 12:12-26

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 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. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Ephesians 5:22-33

Mijikai Mason
Disclaimer: The thoughts and views published on the Veterans to Christ blog are those of Mijikai Mason and in no way are meant to represent the United States Army or the Armed Forces.

Bio: Mijikai Mason is an Ordained Southern Baptist minister and Chaplain in the United States Army. He has been in the Army for 26 years both as an enlisted Soldier and now as an Officer. He has been stationed at various bases in the United States and in United States Army Garrison Schweinfurt, Germany. He holds an undergraduate degree in Religion from the University of Mobile, a Master of Divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in Theology and Evangelism and a Master of Arts degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Webster University. Chaplain (MAJ) Mijikai Mason was selected by the Army in 2013, to become a Family Life Chaplain and began his service in this field starting 15 May 2015. He is the Deputy ESC Chaplain and Family Life Chaplain for the 593 Expeditionary Support Command at Joint Base Lewis McCord. He has deployed four times: Desert Storm (1991), Iraq twice (2005-2006; 2007-2008), and Afghanistan (2012-2013). He has a total of 42 months deployed in combat and logistics operations. Mijikai and his wife, Ashley, have been married for 17 years this May and live near Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington with their four daughters.