By Ross Engel –
Strumpet. Now that’s a word one doesn’t hear very often. Shakespeare used it in Othello and Jack Sparrow used it in Pirates of the Caribbean. If you’re not familiar with the word, perhaps you’ve heard “harlot,” “hussy,” or “demimondaine.” All these words share one thing in common: they refer to ladies of the night—someone who sells themselves for pleasure. They are euphemisms for the title “whore.”
One of my favorite professors in seminary often would say, “The church is the bride of Christ, not the culture’s whore.” Recently I found myself recalling the sentiment and considering this juxtaposition.
The church father St. Augustine is often quoted as saying something like, “The church is a whore, but she is my mother.” Now it is highly doubtful that St. Augustine would ever say such a thing, but sadly, there often is some biting truth to such a harsh statement. All too often, churches can be seen chasing after things just like a strumpet would.
You see, a strumpet is promiscuous. They get around and have a willingness to compromise their principles for personal gain. They’ll happily do whatever it takes to get what they want. Even in the movie Pretty Woman, that particular “lady of the night” broke her “no kissing on the lips” rule for her own personal gain. The strumpet is willing to shift priorities, change or bend the rules, and present herself in whatever way is going to garner the most attention in order to get what they want. There is little care for how they conduct themselves. They are quite willing to dress and adorn themselves in whatever way will get the most response. The only fear they have is the fear of getting caught, though even when caught red handed, they are ready with an explanation to attempt to place the blame elsewhere. The harlot takes what doesn’t belong to her by welcoming cheaters and the unfaithful. She happily breaks up families. But, the strumpet is only useful until the unfaithful finds a better option, then she is cast aside for the next best thing.
Sadly, there are always some in the church who are willing to encourage her to play the role of strumpet. Tempted with quick success, there can be a willingness to compromise the truth. The preaching no longer delivers the Law and the Gospel. Sinners aren’t called to repentance because it might scare them away, and the Gospel is transmogrified into the Law. Jesus died for you, so go try harder and be a better person! Or as I recently read, “The Resurrection is all about a call to discipleship.” Um… No! The Sacraments end up being placed into the lips of those who have not been rightly instructed or examined. The church ends up adorned in the gaudy and narcissistic attire of a right here, right now culture. Are you not entertained?! And sadly, seeking better options, people wander from their loving family and end up in the arms of one ever-changing floozy after another. And when the strumpet church is exposed for its actions, the herald of truth is labeled to be “unloving,” “old-fashioned,” or “not missional.”
But the church is the bride of Christ. She’s not called to be a strumpet.
Brides are lovely. They are presented as pure, faithful, and adorned in white. The bride is luxurious, delicate, and adorned for her husband (and only her husband). To the groom, the bride is spotless and blameless. She is perfect. A bride is traditionally adorned in something borrowed and precious that has been handed down to her from generations before her. She treasures this item and is honored to have it. Everyone knows a bride when they see one. A bride and her groom are intently focused on one another to the point that much of the wedding day, outside of their beloved one, is forgotten.
So also, the church. Made blameless and holy by Jesus, the church has been beautifully adorned. Her call is to be faithful to her Lord. Her existence is one that carries with it the treasures that have been shared and passed along from generation to generation. Everyone knows a church when they see one. The Word and Sacraments that adorn her make her identity obvious.
“I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them.” – Rev. 21:2-3
The church is beloved by the Lord. She is His spotless bride. He made her that way with His own precious blood. And until that day when our Lord returns at the End of the Age to dwell with His bride for all eternity, let the church stand fast, and let her stay true to her first love, Jesus Christ, the perfect bridegroom.