Wooing, Winning, Responding
I'm pretty sure I can still remember the day my friend John fell in love. A young woman named Danielle showed up at our church and John was utterly captivated. Over time he worked up the nerve to ask her out and for a while they dated, seeing if there was that spark between them--that spark that cannot easily be described or defined, but that somehow binds two hearts together. But before too long it was clear that things just weren't working out. John and I had many tough conversations, as he did with his other friends, and the consistent counsel was, "John, it's time to let go." We knew of his love for Danielle, and his desire to be with her, but it seemed that it just wasn't meant to be. Out of love and out of respect for them both we all suggested that he release his heart's hold on her.
Two days ago I had the great honor of marrying John and Danielle. This was the first wedding I've ever officiated and it was truly one of the experiences of a lifetime to be able to stand before their friends and family, the people who love them and have prayed for them for so long, and to be able to proclaim them man and wife.
John is a dear friend and one who has taught me so much. He has taught me how to love kids better--how to relate to children about serious topics; John had an amazing ministry to the children of our church. He has taught me about the importance of prayer and the importance of praying together as friends. And through his pursuit of a bride he has modelled something else, something that has blessed me deeply.
For their wedding text I preached the first few verses of Revelation 21, that great future vision of a New Jerusalem coming down from heaven prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. That city--not a city of streets and buildings, but a city of people--is presented to Jesus Christ as his bride.
Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
Here is God presenting this people, holy and redeemed and perfected, as a bride, as a gift to his Son. And here is the Son receiving that good gift. It is little wonder, then, that time and again, the biblical writers turned to this metaphor, to this relationship--a bridegroom with his bride--to describe Christ and his church.
As I stood there at the front of the room, and watched as John and his bride gazed at one another--the way a man and woman look at one another in those final few moments before they become husband and wife--I began to think of the way Christ must look at us, his bride. And I couldn't help but think of how Christ won us to himself.
Recently I sat with some new friends and heard of how the Lord saved them. They told of how the Lord pursued them despite their sin, despite their unwillingness, despite their apathy. They ran away from him, they rebelled against him, but he persisted, he refused to give up. From this earth-bound, human perspective, there were all the marks of a bridegroom pursuing a bride, drawing, wooing, winning and, finally, responding. Then they knew what Christ had done to secure their salvation, how he had given up his life for their sake, fulfilling the very vow that a man makes to his bride.
I saw this kind of love, this tenacious love, this heart affection, in the eyes of my friend as he stood before me on Saturday. And in the eyes of his bride I saw one who had responded to that kind of love, to that kind of pursuit. It was not surrender, it was not resignation, but deep love and respect and desire. The heart had willingly responded. Love had won.