Saturday, October 12, 2013

Friends and Lovers: Part 2

What is our relationship to God ‘s Word, Jesus the Mashiach (“Anointed--Chosen”), who came to all of us with the Good News of God for every single human who will ever live and who has ever lived (john 3:16)?

Certainly not the horrific news we’ve heard declared by modern Evangelical leaders, tragic descriptions that leave most of humankind with NO hope:-(

To counter these false claims, let’s continue our look at comparisons and terms from Scripture, especially from Jesus himself (“Eashoa” in Aramaic).

In the first part of this reflection, I pointed out why the use of the “slave” analogy from Scripture grossly mis-communicates to most of us because “slave” is such a degrading, inherently evil term (though we glanced at why Peter used it in a hyperbolic sense).

In many ways the ideal word for us followers of Jesus
is the literal term he chose--

Let’s listen to his own words again: 12“This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15: 14-15 NASB

“Friend” synonyms: companion, soul mate, intimate, confidant…

Think of the wonder of that—God, the Creator of the whole cosmos, desires to live in communion with all humans through an intimate friendship with Eashsoa! Yes, as incredible as it sounds, God’s ultimate will and desire is to be our friends! Even though we are sinners, brief finite beings, ones who often fail and act contrary to what is good, just, and loving, God still loves us with an infinite love.

Consider this other passage from Jesus: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. John 14:23 ESV

And many of us do seek to keep his word, to live Christ-like lives. I’ve sought to be a friend of Jesus for almost 60 years.

But the glorious wonder of this—-is that God through his Word first loved all of us! Jesus, the Word of God, loves us, everyone of us, each one of us!

The words spoken by Jesus, the truths in the Good News Book of John, still astound and mystify. The incredible truth is beyond comprehension. Joy unspeakable!

However, other terms in the NT keep crowding in on this key understanding. Often very odd metaphors and strange allegories and mysterious spiritual explanations!

“…since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to the Chosen One.” II Corinthians 11:2b

The Apostle Paul is comparing us followers to a bride! I don’t know of any men who have ever thought of themselves as a “bride.”! Yet here is the biblical analogy of us men (and women) followers of the Messiah, as a group, being compared to a bride who is going to marry Chosen One!

But think on this; maybe the analogy isn’t as strange as it first sounds. Don’t you men consider your wife as your best friend? Aren't the words of most wedding ceremonies one of cherishing, communing, loving? Then the analogy works—if we are friends of the Chosen One, then in an ultimate sense—probably playing on an allusion to the Song of Songs in the Hebrew Bible as well as references in the HB prophets—we are his “virgin bride.”

God chooses Christ, and in him, we become the chosen.

The prophet Isaiah says, “Your maker is your husband.” (Isaiah 54:5) And “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” (Isaiah 62:5)

Jesus, referring to himself as the Anointed One by God his father, says of his followers in Matthew 9:15, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

The Son of Man, a Hebraic idiom meaning both “an ordinary human” as well as the prophetic “Son of Man,” from the book of Daniel, chapter 7, is a leader who comes to God in Heaven and is given “dominion, glory, and a kingdom.”

And the writer of Revelation says of Jesus and his followers: "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. It was given her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and pure; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the ‘set apart’ ones." Revelation 19:7-8

And in Ephesians, the writer emphasizes this picture, going beyond metaphor and even allegory, seeming to be declaring a spiritual mystery: 5:22 “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies.

He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.”

This extended metaphor is very odd and confusing to most people in the 21st century. A Brethren church I used to be a member of back in the 1980’s was called Lamb’s Bride Fellowship. However, though we liked the name a lot especially the spiritual implications of "Lamb's Bride," we finally had to change our church sign, because most people had no idea what we were talking about—thought we were some kind of esoteric, twisted cult!

But the image would have resonated with people in the 1st century, the 50’s of our Common Era. In the case of Jewish people, they would have immediately remembered how their Hebrew Bible often compares them as the Chosen people to be married to God. In the case of non-Jewish people, they may have been aware of the negative, contrary image in Paganism where the gods allegedly descended and committed fornication with human females. In dynamic contrast, thankfully, the God of Eashoa isn't like that, not at all.

The One True God is a faithful husband, not a lecher.

There are problems though even with this glorious metaphor. Because of the patriarchal implications of the Ephesians passage, for 2000 years, tragically, these household code verses have been used to subjugate and oppress women. (More on this problem later.*)

But despite the literalized misuse of the analogy by so many church leaders and husbands, the extended metaphor/symbol/image is still very powerful if understood in a spiritual sense as referring to God’s love for every human.

Christ, the Chosen One of God, like a husband wants/wills/chooses to relate to us as his beloved bride—the ultimate friendship/communion/intimacy. Indeed like Genesis says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

Thus the meaning is that the Chosen One, the Word of God, left his Father, God, and chose us to become ONE with us (his bride, his dearest friends)—that we might have a “profound mysterious” relationship with him and thereby with the Infinite Creator of All.

Amazing, incomprehensible, wondrous!

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

*Paul’s literal endorsement of the unequal nature of human male and female is troubling, one where the husband is compared to the Lord, the Chosen One, while the wife is compared to a human follower! The husband is the “head”—meaning the mind, while a woman is the lowly “body” who must be controlled, redeemed, etc. Hint: Remember, this is also related to Paul’s view of slavery as the passage demonstrates a few verses later.

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