"This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church."
Of all the terms God could have used to describe the relationship between the church and Jesus, there is none more prized than depicting us as His bride. Had He chosen a beloved child, there would have been caring, kindness, love, inheritance and a blood bond. We would've been birthed from Him alone, but not called beside Him as a bride. Had He chosen us merely as a friend, there would be trust, gratitude and enjoyment. There would be valued loyalty through good times and bad, and a special place in His heart and ours for what we share together. Yet it could not be the closest bond. Had He chosen a servant, there would be obedience and perhaps favor, but not the honor of an exclusive partnership and voluntary lives laid down. This best describes marriage alone.
Never before has so much revelation and release been placed on intimacy with the Lord. Yet many people (pastors included!) do not understand this focus. Some find it "too personal" for public discussion or display.
I didn't choose this analogy. Our loving Bridegroom did. He is wooing us through intimate worship that opens our hearts and reveals our hidden secrets and needs. He is taking us aside to the bridal chamber where He shares with us His deepest secrets and heals our brokenness.
Jesus is drawing His bride. He covers us as does the husband and washes us with His Word (see Eph. 5). He is jealous for us and will share us with no one else. He defends us and protects us, as would the most ardent lover.
Our spouses are to be our equal—perhaps not always in function, but always in worth. We are one with our spouses. It is beyond my comprehension (hence the "mystery" Paul speaks of) that Jesus would call us "one" with Him.
Why would He choose this highest and, yes, most demanding of all relationships to describe His union with us? One reason is that it is also the most rewarding of all relationships. Marriage is meant to be the safest place on earth to get healed, delivered and set free as you share yourself with that one person in irrevocable covenant. Yet perhaps the most important reason is because marriage is the only relationship called to bear children. Matthew 16:18 tells us that God will build His church. To do this, He is looking to reproduce Himself in the earth through His bride.
Christ is not looking for a church that wants to be His girlfriend or have an occasional date, though many prefer that lessened commitment. He is serious in this hour about having a bride—without spot or wrinkle. That means we must grow up and be married. It's time to work through the conflicts, the misunderstandings and the challenges that go with any relationship. As His church, it is time to step into the maturity that takes on responsibility, makes sacrifices and perseveres when things are tough.
The awesome reward is the intimate love of our Bridegroom. Many may serve God out of heartfelt obedience yet never share in the joy of being His partner. I want to be His spouse. I want all that comes with that great privilege. Nothing can compel us with purer motives, greater endurance and a more accurate representation of Christ on this earth than walking in the intimacy of His love.
Ché Ahn is senior pastor of Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, Calif. He leads an apostolic network in 35 nations around the world and has written numerous books, including his latest release, Close Encounters of the Divine Kind.