I was thinking this morning, having seen a quotation from James Durham's Exposition of the Song of Solomon, about the picture of the church as the Bride of Christ. This word-picture that God has used in His Word is rich with application and can serve as a very helpful illustration of who Christ is for the church and how we relate to Him. Today, however, with egalitarianism running rampant, and exact equivalence postulated between men and women, much of the understanding of the brideship of the church with respect to her Husband is lost, or at least hard to extricate. Our culture is so far gone away from a good understanding of male-female relationships and marriage in particular that I suspect understanding the images God gives to us in this regard are obscured at best.
A couple of things struck me as I meditated upon this this morning on my walk to work. First, Christ is Head and Protector of His Bride. We are covenantally bound and have duties and responsibilities as well as blessings and benefits as the Bride of Christ. The relationship is sealed in covenant and eternally binding. As our covenant Head, Christ leads us -and we are to listen, to honor and to obey, and to love our Husband. Our Husband, at the same time, only commands what is good and right for us. There is NO inappropriateness, NO impropriety, NO command that Christ gives His Bride that does not benefit fully the Bride herself. As Head of His Bride, Christ leads perfectly - and it is Hers to obey Him in all things.
The modern view of marriage is nothing like this, for various reasons. Marriage has gone so far off its moorings that it's even hard to picture what the ideal marriage as taught in Scripture looks like... and I think we often import our wrong understanding of marriage into our understanding of Christ's role as Head and Husband of the church, much to our detriment.
The bride and husband in marriage, today we say, are perfectly equal partners, with neither leading and neither following. They marry and stay married as long as love lasts. Each is seen as independent, and the chiefest virtue often seems to be that each one feels individually satisfied and affirmed, and "their own person". If these skewed views of marriage get imported into the picture of Christ as Husband and the church as Bride, then how FAR away from a Biblical understanding of the relationship between Christ and church will ensue!
Second, and this is the idea that surprised me somewhat - but I think it's valid - let's think a little about how Middle Eastern marriages functioned. In such marriages, brides didn't propose to their potential husbands, or pursue them as often they do today. It wasn't even an equal pursuit. one of another. Rather 1) the marriage was likely to be arranged by the father of the bridegroom and 2) the initiation and proposal was made by the groom.
If we look at marriage with 21st century postmodern eyes, as thoroughly egalitarian affairs, in which each of the marriage partners pursues the other, and, if love seems to last during ups and downs of intimate relationship building, then marriage might ensue... we won't understand what picture God draws in His word. Christ calls us - we don't call Him. Christ the Bridegroom calls to His Bride and beseeches her to be His. This isn't today's view of salvation. Can the world rightly understand the initiator in salvation if the world has rejected this view of marriage? How far do egalitarian social principles go to foment egalitarian principles of salvation, and thus destroy the understanding of the relationship of the believer to Christ?
The Father arranges the marriage by election. The ultimate cause of the marriage is the Father's election, not the whim of the bride. With the old picture of marriage abhorred and abominated by the world, how can the world understand the church's relationship to Christ, when that is the understanding of marriage that Christ and His Apostles were working with when illustrating the relationship by using the picture of marriage?
These aren't conclusive thoughts, I don't think, but I do wonder what our egalitarian view of the male-female relationship in the home (in marriage, really, but let's be realistic in today's society) has done to our understanding of who we are in Christ. It cannot be a net good impact.
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