It's a Scripture Saturday on a Friday, because really Scripture shouldn't just be talked about on Saturday!
I recently finished a book called Found in Him by Elyse Fitpatrick. I really enjoyed it. It was about the incarnation of Christ--Christ becoming man to dwell with us--and all that that entails. The second part of the book talks about our union with Christ that His death on the cross accomplished. In the Bible, God paints this picture of Christ as the Groom and the church as the Bride. In her book, Elyse (I've read several of her books, so we're on a first name basis) talked about vows that a bride and groom exchange during a wedding ceremony. It is a part of being the bride of Christ that I had not thought about before. And it has been something I have continued to dwell on since I read the book. So, although some of my thoughts come straight from the book, some of them are my ponderings as well. I might not always point out which is which, so if I plagiarize, please forgive me!
Here are some traditional vows I found on the good ole' Internet:
I, (Bride/Groom), take you (Groom/Bride), to be my (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.
The best part of thinking of these vows in terms of my relationship with Christ is that I know that that relationship is so much more than the vows spoken between a man and a woman. I'll try to explain what I mean.
To have and to hold from this day forward:
In a human relationship, the vows start at the time of the wedding. From this day forward. But with Christ, the church/bride, has a future marriage in heaven. Our commitment to Christ began when we surrendered our lives to Christ. But Christ's commitment to us started way before that. His commitment started before the foundations of the earth, before the fall of Adam and Eve, before I was a glimmer in my mother's eye. He knew me before I was born. Ephesians 4 says, "He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons and daughters through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will." From this day forward and in eternity past!
For better or for worse
In wedding vows, I have always assumed this means that my spouse will love me whether I am lovable or not. Whether I am putting my best foot forward or whether I am throwing an adult-sized temper tantrum. In Christ, we were loved while we were completely unlovable. In her book, Elyse makes the point that the vows should say, "I, Christ, take you, Sinner." We've grown up hearing about the type of man or woman we should seek. And most likely your parents did not say to seek out the worst of the worst, the one who will break your heart time and time again. The one who has done nothing and can do nothing to earn your love. But that's what God asked Jesus to do! He chose to marry a bride that could never earn His favor, could never do anything deserving of His love. Romans 5 says, "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." For the Groom, there really is not a "better" in these vows, except what He makes better for us through His death. His bride does not bring a "better" on her own!
In sickness and in health
I read a fiction book recently where the main character got married and his wife died nine months later of cancer. He probably didn't see that coming when he said those vows. In terms of being the bride of Christ, I see these vows two ways. The first is in true physical sickness and health. I mentioned in a recent post that I have a friend who is battling cancer. As I was praying for her today, I was thinking about the fact that God is not surprised by her cancer. And He loves her no differently now then He did before she knew she was sick. The Groom is going to love me regardless of my physical health. But He is also going to love me regardless of my spiritual health. My sin doesn't stop once I choose life in Him. I still have a fleshly nature that is going to turn me time and again to sin. And Christ will not abandon me during these times of sickness. He will patiently wait for me to turn back to Him. He will lovingly forgive me for the adultery of looking to sin for my pleasure instead of Him. He will also love me in times of health, when I am glorifying Him through my service and through studying His Word and growing in knowledge of Him and pursuing holiness. He will remain faithfully devoted to me in spiritual sickness and health.
To love and to cherish
Obviously, when a bride and groom say their vows on their wedding day, they say these particular words with ooey-gooey stars in their eyes. Loving and cherishing probably seem so easy on that day. Christ looks at me in the same way! And it never stops! Psalm 17:8 says, "Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings." Zephaniah 3:17 says, "The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." Ephesians 5 says, "After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church." In the New American Standard Bible, "feeds and cares" is translated "nourish and cherish". I love the word "cherish." Just pause for a second and let the word conjure up images for you. Now take those images and multiply them to the nth degree, because that is what Christ cherishing you looks like. It is so great we cannot comprehend it!
Until death do us part
Did you know that marriage is just temporary? And I'm not talking about divorce here. Actually, that's not what these vows are talking about at all. I mean, marriage is only an earthly thing. Because when the believers in Christ enter into heaven, they will no longer be married to their earthly spouses. They will be the Bride of Christ. So the best part of these vows is that this vow is not true at all. It should instead say, "until death and then on into eternity." There is no end to our marriage to Christ. It will go on for eternity! An eternity of being loved and cherished by Someone who can never hurt us or wrong us, who can only do us good, who will only love us forever. It is almost too much for me to wrap my itty-bitty brain around!
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