- Read Revelation 19:4-10 here.
- If you missed Sunday’s sermon (18 July), you can listen to it here.
- Follow the rest of this discussion here.
The image of God marrying His people seems to be first laid out by the prophet Hosea who was one of the earliest writing prophets. Jeremiah and Ezekiel subsequently expanded upon Hosea’s imagery. In turn, the NT writers, and Jesus himself, applied this imagery to Jesus’ relationship with the church. Through the church, Jesus/God weds His people.
The poignant passages are:
- Hosea 1-3;
- Jeremiah 2-3;
- Ezekiel 16, 23;
- Matthew 25:1-13;
- Luke 5:33-35;
- 2 Corinthians 11:2-3;
- Ephesians 5:21-33
- Revelation 19:4-10.
With all these passages discussing the same topic, there’s obviously a lot to talk about. My point is pretty simple, The Church of Christ Must Love Christ.
The critical question for our generation — and for ever generation — is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?
That is the most challenging thought I’ve confronted in quite a while. Do I love Jesus, or just the benefits I get from him?
We all know from personal experience that it’s easy for relationships with those close to us, spouse, parent, child, sibling to sometimes be motivated by emotional love, but more often by commitment and dedication. In our darker moments our relationships are based on guilt and obligation. In a similar vein, love does not always motivate our relationship with Christ.
Churches of Christ have a heritage of rational and logical thought. We’re reluctant to base our beliefs and practices on experience or emotion. I appreciate this orientation, but at the same time, if we’re the bride of Christ, the church MUST have some loving feelings toward our groom! This takes work and effort. Many marriages dissolve because the “spark dies”. Many Christians also lose their faith because church attendance alone fails to fill the God shaped void within them.
I don’t have all the solutions for “keeping the spark alive” with Christ, but it seems to me we’re back where we started. Open and introspective communication between us and Christ is essential for a loving relationship. But we can’t just emphasise the contemplative life. 1 John 5:3 tells us that we express our love for God when we keep his commandments. Again, this is not motivated by compulsion, but by love. We keep his commandments and we love those around us because we’ve opened ourselves up to Him living within us. We love Him, because He first loves us. (1 John 4:7-21)
- How can churches help us keep our love for God fresh and vibrant?
- Is it the church’s responsibility or ours?
- How do you “revitalise” your relationship with Christ when you feel it getting stale?
On a related topic, I like this post by Matt Dabbs on his blog. Although he doesn’t specifically discuss the imagery of the Bride of Christ, he makes a relevant observation. “Shouldn’t viewing the church as the Bride of Christ impact the way we treat the church?” If the church is God’s bride, then shouldn’t we be careful how we speak of her? Sometimes it’s easy to be negative of the human faults we identify in the church. However, I would be pretty upset if someone criticised my bride the way I often hear and read the church being criticised, and I sure don’t want to get Christ worked up. It’s extremely difficult to always keep our “suggestions” positive and constructive when we see elements of the church that we disagree with. What do you think?