“Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)
For lovers to be truly one, for the love to reach the deepest levels of affection, the highest flights of ecstasy, the lovers must be compatible. So the Spirit created us God-compatible and seeks to restore that compatibility. But it isn’t only the intimacy of a fond embrace, the emotions of it. True love acts. Such a lover lives for the welfare of the other. What greater joy in heaven than when we bring new sons and daughters into the circle of love? But not just our witnessing activity; the most powerful ministry of any kind flows from that love relationship. Furthermore, Christlikeness and ministry reinforce one another in many ways. For example, an unholy witness is bad news, not good news. The interrelatedness of image/love/ministry is so intertwined you may have needed an additional page to answer that question!
The secret to a happy marriage is each living to fill up the other. Is your marriage to God a happy one or is it one-sided, day and night he filling you and you doing little to fulfill him? Fulfill God? God is complete — what could you add to him? Of course, but remember, to love is to be vulnerable. That’s one of the glorious mysteries of our God. Unlike Allah or Buddha, for example, he makes himself vulnerable, the vulnerability of love. God feels loss, God hurts, God feels happy, God feels sad.
Once upon a time the heir to the throne of a magnificent kingdom, a handsome and wise prince, traveled to a distant realm to find a bride. When word came back that the prince had found her, the palace came alive with anticipation and began to celebrate. But soon the joy began to fade. The bride-to-be bombarded the palace administration with phone-calls and faxes demanding to know the financial state of the kingdom, the laws concerning the rights of immigrants such as the division of an estate upon divorce. Then rumors began to spread among the citizenry that the chosen one had an unsavory reputation. In fact, it was said, since her divorce she has had more than one affair. Finally, the local newspaper ran an investigative report that said the lady had been under psychiatric treatment for multiple personality disorder. Still, the King went ahead with plans for the wedding, the most glorious the Kingdom had ever known. He had confidence in the judgment of his son.
Imagine the anticipation of the people as they jammed the cathedral for the great occasion. All eyes were on the doorway as the wedding march began. When the bride appeared, a groan spread like a tidal wave across the congregation. Her wedding gown was torn and mud-spattered, her hair disheveled. She looked more like a derelict than a bride. Though mesmerized by the spectacle, some forced their gaze to the front and the waiting prince. To their astonishment, there he stood in regal splendor at the altar, beaming broadly as if he were about to marry the most lovely woman of the land.
How does the Bride of Christ look to you? Divided and bickering, self-centered, dirtied with the world’s values, unfaithful, and disfigured from self-inflicted wounds? And the Prince all-glorious — what a deal! Oh, I know — we shall become like him when we see him as he is, the bride will be transformed — without spot or blemish, true. And that glorious day will mark the consummation of the Spirit’s plan for us, bringing us to the marriage supper of the Lamb.
But the godliness, the intimacy was never planned to begin then. The Spirit designs it for now. So what about today? Do you bring him sadness today? Or joy? The good news is that no matter how ugly and split-up the church as a whole may look to itself or to outsiders, no matter how misguided and impotent, we as individuals can come to that final celebration with joy.