Well, everyone, I'm finally back from the Thanksgiving- finals- packing- travel- home- Christmas- shopping- New Years- travel- wedding- travel insanity that has been my last few weeks. Yowza! The wedding part was amazing... my dear friend Nikki got married Saturday, and the wedding was so wonderful, undoubtedly the best I've ever attended, much less been a part of. The whole atmosphere was so worshipful and Christ-focused, but celebratory as well -- Nikki was actually bouncing with excitement for part of the ceremony. And it really got me thinking about the church. Why, you ask? Lemme 'splain. No. There is too much. Lemme sum up:
Last Fall, a speaker here on campus said something that really stuck with me. He said that it's impossible to love Christ truly but hate His body -- in other words, there's reason to question the commitment of folks who call themselves Christians and say that they love the Lord but refuse to incorporate themselves into the Church. After all, Christ's purpose was to redeem a people for Himself, not to sell fire insurance to a bunch of tunnel-visioned isolationists!
Ephesians 5:22-32 (The first scripture read at Nikki and JD's wedding) says, "Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is head of the wife as also Christ is head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. Now as the church submits to Christ, so wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as also Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her, to make her holy, cleansing her in the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own flesh, but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, since we are members of His body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the Church."
See what I mean? Paul is writing to instruct the believers in Ephesus about relationships between husbands and wives, and he finishes by saying that he is talking about Christ and the Church! As Dr. Russell Moore has said, Paul wasn't searching for a metaphor for marriage: "Hmm, let's see. The relationship between a husband and his wife is like... The sun and the moon? No... The Earth and the sky? No... I've got it! Christ and the Church!" What this passage tells us is that God created marriage itself to display the relationship between Christ and the Church!
Now the implications for marriage are heavy-duty enough to merit another post (hm, percolating that one), but what about the implications for those of us who call ourselves by Christ's name? When God accomplished the work of salvation in my heart, I became incorporated into Christ; I became a member of His body, the Church -- His bride! Christ is my husband -- but not just mine, as if Christianity were an individual, private thing. Christ is my husband because I am a part of His Church!
Let's look at it like this: my friend Nikki got married on Saturday. She fell in love, and that love blossomed into a desire to know JD more, and then to make a commitment -- soberly and advisedly, but with joy and fervor as well. When she made her vows, she promised to be subject to her husband, and to devote herself entirely to him. To show that she is now under her husband's authority, she gave up her maiden name and took his name as her own. See any parallels to how our lives as a Church are meant to be? Our love for our Savior should motivate us to commit deeply to Him, seeking to know Him more, and to strive for more commitment to Him, both soberly and joyfully. We should devote ourselves as a Body to Christ, and be subject to His leading. We should give up the authority (the "name") of our sinful nature, and take on the authority (the "name") of our Anointed King.
So to tie this all together, both with the subject of the post and the subject of the blog, I'd like to ask you all a question: when was the last time you had a conversation with your Husband about submitting to His authority and joyfully serving Him? When did you last seek direction from your Groom about how to deepen your intimacy and commitment?
I'll close with a couple of verses from a great hymn, one that we sang at Nikki and JD's wedding, The Church's One Foundation:
The Church's one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord
She is His new creation by Spirit and the Word
From Heaven He came and sought her to be His holy Bride
With His own blood He bought her and for her life He died
Elect from every nation, yet one over all the Earth
Her charter of salvation: One Lord, one faith, one birth
One holy Name she blesses, partakes one holy food
And to one hope she presses with every grace endued
Though with a scornful wonder we see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed,
Yet saints their watch are keeping; their cry goes up, "How long?"
And soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song.
Amid toil and tribulation and tumult of her war
She waits the consummation of peace forevermore
Till with the vision glorious her longing eyes are blest
And the great Church victorious shall be the church at rest
Yet she on earth hath union with God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won.
O happy ones and holy! Lord, give us grace that we
Like them, the meek and lowly, on high may dwell with thee.