Ephesians: 5: 25-27
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
The romantic notion that the Church is the bride of Christ has many meanings. As Ephesians states, it is a sanctified relationship, a model for behavior on both a personal and corporate level.
There’s just one problem with this marriage and its interpretation over the ages. It appears the marriage has been hijacked by people who consider themselves the Best Man.
You know the type: They get all caught up in the moment and start to think they’re the most important person at the wedding. Then they grab a microphone and start rambling on about their relationship with the groom or whatever and won’t shut up or sit down. Everyone in the room starts to get uncomfortable. The Best Man drones on, bragging about all the things they’ve done together, and this tale or that tale emerges that are more than just a little embarrassing.
Everyone at the wedding knows the talk has gone on far too long. But wanting to show respect, people hold tight and refuse to interrupt the blathering fool with the microphone. That can only last so long, however.
Every long wedding talk must come to an end. Sooner or later the power-drunk Best Man has to stand down, stand aside and let the actual marriage begin.
That’s where we find ourselves in an age when so-called Traditional Christianity is being challenged to give up the microphone and take a seat. The entirely aggressive enterprise of claiming you’re the absolute Best Friend of Jesus and that no one else in the room has a clue what he’s really like has gotten old. Very old.
Next generation Christians, especially progressive and liberal Christians, are advocating a whole different relationship with Jesus that isn’t based on timeworn tales that miss the nuance of the deeper meaning of the marriage that is true faith.
Oh sure, the Best Man has his schtick down pat, what with all that patriarchal Guy Talk and Confessional Language designed to make it seem like there’s only one way to be married to Christ in this world. But bragging about the Good Times you’ve had together and the laws you’ve laid down about how to live does not necessarily help the marriage. In fact it leads to unhealthy, unbalanced relationships.
A real marriage with Christ takes real communication. Real consideration.
It also means not taking everything in the relationship literally. One could argue that Jesus set the tone for the whole Bride of Christ scenario as he collaborated with his disciples. They were taught to listen and read the nuance and symbolism in his stories. It was not all macho crap and black and white and God Said It So I Believe It. That’s not how Jesus taught at all. If he had agreed with that philosophy he’d never have challenged the religious leaders of his day. They were plenty good at that kind of power-mongering, money-grubbing, Follow the Law kind of religion. Jesus hated that crap. That’s what he came to destroy.
But it has persisted because people who consider themselves the Best Man always want to grab the microphone and brag about how well they know the Groom (or the bride.) They can’t help themselves and they like to make it sound like there’s no doubt they’re the Best Friend of Jesus.
Even Jesus must be a little embarrassed and frustrated by now. The habits of his so-called Best Man are nothing like he wants for the marriage between himself and the church. For one thing, the Best Man has always seemed to think that women have no real place of leadership in the church. But women are as important if not more important to the whole of the church than men.
Jesus also taught that family comes first. But that family was not just conceived as a man and a woman and two kids, as we are so often told to believe by the blathering Best Man.
On many occasions Jesus admonished those around him that family is comprised of those who support each other, who show kindness to strangers and who do not use political or economic divisions to determine who should be considered part of the church. Compare the statements below to the contentions of one who has stood so long at the pulpit damning those who do not hew to conservative tradition, castigating people who do not vote for the Right party or who do not accept a literal interpretation of Scripture espousing patriarchal worldviews and a hatred for modern knowledge, science and social progress on grounds that it corrupts the mind. Jesus did not like that brand of faith…