Thursday, January 30, 2014

Creativity, Marriage, and How to Keep the Flame Alive. Pt. 2.

So, you've seen my opinion on creativity, marriage, and how I believe they are connected (and why it's important), but now we're going to take a deeper look into what the Bible says. The Old Testament is filled with marriage (particularly since polygamy was practiced in the cultural context of OT times), God blesses it (via Genesis), the Proverbs lift up marriage as good, and Deuteronomy even gives rules as to how newly married Jews were to go about wartime (24:5). Jesus affirms marriage (in both Matthew and Mark) and Paul talks both positively and negatively about it on different occasions (and for different situations). Many have their differing opinions within the church, even making marriage an idol at times, but none of these answers our initial topic on being a bride. More specifically, being the bride of Christ, or the Church (notice the capital 'C'). Isaiah 54:5 says, "your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called,"and nowhere is this described more beautifully then Revelation 19-21.

So, where does this put us?  We have polygamy among many of the Biblical big names, marriage as an analogy for the Church's role in God's Kingdom, and outright discouragement from one of the early church leaders. As a campus minister, I teach our students the Biblical narrative in four parts: creation, fall, redemption, and reconciliation (or consummation, since we're sticking to the marriage analogy). In many circles, the whole story isn't communicated as well as it could be, leaving both creation and consummation on the sidelines, essentially turning our faith into a proverbial ticket to heaven and not a regained completion of relationships with God, self, others', and the earth (yeah, I said that right, the earth...). Without getting too much into that (since this blog is about being the bride of Christ), we need to look at both how we were created to be and what it is that we are going to be to understand our collective role as the bride of Christ. In Genesis, humans were created as image bearers of God. We are literally icons of the one that created us; we were made to care for the earth, create culture, and worship God. That's where it starts... you know how we failed at listening to God, wanting to put ourselves in his place, God spends many years trying to bring people back into relationship with him, sends Jesus to come and fix it, etc. (I am not downplaying the importance of these parts of the story at all, because I believe that everything points to Jesus, just trying to stay on task).

It was cheating, when I was in school, to skip to the end of the book missing all the other important details, but in order to grasp the whole story we're going to do just that. Revelation 19 begins the marriage supper of the lamb. Before you get lost in all of the obscure details of the book of Revelation, let me try to sum up the picture being painted. A bunch of people are waiting to celebrate the most glorious wedding; in fact, they're barely waiting, praising the "groomsman" before he even presents himself to the people. Jesus shows up on a white horse (cue wedding music), Satan is defeated, and the new heaven and new earth are presented (this is the consummation, for those still following this analogy). "...the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.'" Heaven and earth meet (on earth) where the groom (Jesus) makes everything new for his wife (the Church). This celebration is the celebration of all celebrations. Heaven and earth become one, God is finally with the people he's been fighting for since day one, and we feast as we bask in the glory of once again being whole, connected to the one we were made for.

This is why marriage is such a good analogy for God's plan of reconciliation. We hear this kind of language many times when talking about the one we love: "you complete me," "I couldn't make it without you," "I swear to be yours forever." This is the dedication that Jesus is asking of us. And not because it's what he deserves (though he absolutely does), but because it's exactly what he gives to us: complete and utter dedication, day in and day out. And this is where we are always brought back to the cross. The life God is calling us to brings us, time and time again, to the foot of the cross. We must understand what has been given up, who has taken our punishment, and live out of that love. I know I haven't hit on everything, but I hope this shows a more biblical approach of what being a bride looks like for each of us.

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