Church OF Christ: Part 10

  • 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.

In his book Crazy Love (p100-101), Francis Chan poses a question from John Piper’s book God Is the Gospel (I’ve read Chan’s book not Piper’s, otherwise I’d quote him directly.)

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?


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One comment

  1. eirenetheou

    “Do I love Jesus, or just the benefits I get from him?”

    It is difficult for human beings to separate “love” for any “love object” from our ever present self-interest. We can hope that our “love” for Jesus will grow out of our gratitude for the “benefits” we receive from him, but in order to be grateful we must begin with a clear idea of what those “benefits” are and why we need them.

    Preaching that emphasizes the fear of Hell — “scaring the hell” out of people in order to “convert” them — often results in making sullen and silent converts with plenty of unresolved fears, resentments, and longings, but with little love and no sense of joy. Conversion to a written code of what is right and proper often turns that code into a weapon with which others — and Jesus — are held hostage.

    Similarly, when we marry for what we call “love,” we may hope that some bond will develop between the parties that will survive when sexual attraction fades. Generally we must hope that we shall come to see more in our partner than what we saw in the beginning, or all is lost. To the young i often say, “It ain’t what you look at, it’s what you listen to, that matters.” What you look at, fades and diminishes, but what you listen to, only grows, in volume and quantity.”

    Discipleship, like marriage, is a continuing process of growth. If, in fifty years, we are still where we were when we first believed, spiritually and intellectually, then we have wasted our time and we have missed almost everything that matters.

    The nuptial imagery of the Church of Christ as “Bride of Christ” is a lovely and quite provocative way of understanding our relationship with Jesus, but in the present context i think that our brother Paul’s repeated emphasis on the Church of Christ as the Body of Christ is perhaps more useful. Our society’s degradation of marriage and its elevation of sexual gratification into a sacrament — indeed, the only sacrament — cheapens the imagery and defiles it. “Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh.”

    For many reasons i do not think that the human manifestations of the Church of Christ in our time are ready to understand themselves as “the Bride of Christ.” Whenever i see or hear that image used, i am tempted to ask, “Is this a same-sex marriage?” i won’t ask that here . . . but it is a question to ponder.

    God’s Peace to you.

    d

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