Basic Introductions: The Bridal Paradigm

[In an ongoing effort to provide a jumping-on point for new readers, over the next few weeks on Fridays I’m going to write a series of posts entitled “Basic Introductions.”  Each post will focus on a seldom explored realm of Christianity that we will focus on regularly here at Pursuing Glory.]

Probably one of the hardest truths to understand about life is that God really loves us.  To borrow a phrase from my kids’ picture Bible, He loves us with “a never stopping, never giving up, unbreakable, always and forever love.”  The fact that it’s hard for us to get our minds around God loving us this much doesn’t take away from its reality.  In fact, God’s love is more real than we can possibly imagine.

God’s love has driven Him to do some pretty astounding things.  For one He became a man.  This love not only caused Him to taste humanity but to taste the most difficult humanity, to be perfect yet hated, to bless and be cursed in return, to be from the very richest of places and yet to live in utter humility, to serve and never to be honored.  And to top it all off, He died for us.  He tasted His own curse so that we might never taste it again. This is not the kind of grandfatherly love that we have come to think of when think of God’s heart.  This is a love full of passion, deep emotion, and a commitment that goes all the way to death.

When we talk about a love this deep and profound we’ve finally begun to touch what has come to be known as the Bridal Paradigm.  Don’t let those two words scare you.  They’re big words that describe the deep emotions God feels toward us.  Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘paradigm’ as “a philosophical or theoretical framework of any kind.” Paradigms are the lenses which we see the world and reality through. The Bridal Paradigm, then, is the way we view our relationship with God where we see the love He has for us as the same kind of intense, jealous, life-giving love that a husband has for a wife.

Where is this found in the Bible?  All over! In fact, the thing about paradigms is that you don’t realize them until something changes the way you think and you begin to see everything a little differently.  Let’s start with the great apostle Paul.  Paul was the missionary of missionaries that God used to turn Christianity into a movement that spanned nations and people groups.  But Paul was the instrument God used to fully declare the Bridal Paradigm.  Listen to his words from Ephesians 5:

“In the same way, a husband should love his wife as much as he loves himself. A husband who loves his wife shows that he loves himself. None of us hate our own bodies. We provide for them and take good care of them, just as Christ does for the church, because we are each part of his body. As the Scriptures say, ‘A man leaves his father and mother to get married, and he becomes like one person with his wife.’ This is a great mystery, but I understand it to mean Christ and his church,” (Ephesians 5:28-32).

This should blow our minds! What this passage says is that the whole way through the Bible, when God spoke about Adam and Eve, about a man and woman being joined together, about the bond of marriage, He was actually the whole time describing the kind of love that Christ has for His Church.  Now here’s the real mind-bending part: God didn’t send Christ and then scramble to find an appropriate metaphor for Christ’s love, only to settle on marriage. No!  He looked at His Son and saw the relationship that He would share with His Church and He created marriage as a physical picture that would help explain to people Christ and His love.  Christ and His Church are the original and marriage is patterned after that!

Paul was actually so convinced that God related to the Church this way that when the Corinthians began to loose their way, he would rebuke them using the terms of engagement: “For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ,” (2 Corinthians 11:2-3).  Paul saw his evangelistic work as an introduction to Jesus unto engagement, which culminates in marriage!

This picture of Christ loving the Church is more than just a good picture. In Ephesians 5 Paul calls it “a great mystery.” When Paul calls something a great mystery, he means there is more truth to be gained by contemplating that idea. We are edified by understanding Jesus’ Bridal love for us. He actually feels more deeply and passionately about us than any husband has ever felt for His wife.  Even now where you are, no matter what sin you are in, Christ loves you with a jealous love beyond anything you have ever experienced.  He alone wants to be your only love and He will fight to win you heart. The only thing to compare this to is the jealous love of the most righteous Husband.

Now there are going to be some guys who read this who will have a hard time relating to Jesus as a husband.  Let me give you a few pointers.  Don’t get so caught up in the marriage metaphor that you cannot relate to Jesus.  This about Jesus touching your heart and causing you to love God, not anything weird. Don’t picture yourself in a wedding gown or Jesus giving you flowers. You can still be a man and love Jesus. In fact, beloved, you were designed to do just that.  John, the son of thunder, laid on Jesus’ breast and was called the one who the Lord loved.  You don’t have to give up your manliness to pursue intimacy with God.

So Christ relates to the Church the way a husband relates to his wife.  He loves her.  He cherishes her. He gives Himself up for her.  And we have to begin to see Christ as more than just a thoughtfully kind person who out of responsibility died for us, but a jealous husband who loves us. This has to become personal for each of us.  He doesn’t just love the universal Church. He loves you!

And His love will purify us from our sin.  If we actually touch it, it will cause us to live differently from the inside out.  We will be able to “love the Lord [our] God with all [our] heart and with all [our] soul and with all [our] mind and with all [our] strength, (Mark 12:30)” because we’ve experienced the love that He has for us. And as John found out, “we love because He first loved us,” (John 4:19). When we come to understand this love that He has for us and truly “get it” in our hearts, we will be forever changed.

Help Other Readers Out: In The Comment Section Below do the following-

  • Describe a time when you encountered the love of God and it changed you.
  • Describe one way seeing Christ as a Husband to the Church has changed your perception of God
  • Describe a way that you’ve been able to better understand Christ’s love for you personally.

Photo Credit: Anéis | Rings by Jeff Belmonte

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About traviskolder

Travis Kolder is a follower of Jesus, a husband, a father of five, an organic church planter, and a writer. He lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he serves as part of the Cedar Rapids House Church Network.

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