Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Ultimate Romance

Thoughts on the Sabbath School Lesson for 3.27.12
I’m embarrassed to admit that I have always been a hopeless romantic. I spent several years reading anything I could find that involved King Arthur and Camelot. I can’t remember how many times I read and watched Gone with the Wind. And fairy tales, I still love fairy tales, but tend to enjoy the original versions more than the more modern “Disney-fied” re-tellings. And, of course, romantic comedies are always fun.
Anyway, I think that most of us (guys, you too) are looking for the ultimate romance – someone who will love us totally, who will never betray us or hurt us, who loves us without reservation. Someone who would rather die than live without us.

Hmmm … does that sound like Anyone you know?
“The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.’” Jeremiah 31:3
Through the Holy Spirit, the writers of the Bible have  included some really amazing love stories:  Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Rebecca and they all point to Jesus’ connection to us and to His church. 

More than that though, Jesus’ relationship to His church is described in the most romantic terms available – a Groom coming to claim His bride. If that’s not romantic, I don’t know what is!

You might have heard of Joni Eareckson Tada.  She was paralyzed in a diving accident when she was still a teenager. She “draws parallels between her wedding day, and Christ's love for his church.
“I felt awkward as my girlfriends strained to shift my paralyzed body into a cumbersome wedding gown. No amount of corseting and binding my body gave me a perfect shape. The dress just didn't fit well. Then, as I was wheeling into the church, I glanced down and noticed that I'd accidentally run over the hem of my dress, leaving a greasy tire mark. My paralyzed hands couldn't hold the bouquet of daisies that lay off-center on my lap. And my chair, though decorated for the wedding, was still a big, clunky gray machine with belts, gears, and ball bearings. I certainly didn't feel like the picture-perfect bride in a bridal magazine.
I inched my chair closer to the last pew to catch a glimpse of Ken in front. There he was, standing tall and stately in his formal attire. I saw him looking for me, craning his neck to look up the aisle. My face flushed, and I suddenly couldn't wait to be with him. I had seen my beloved. The love in Ken's face had washed away all my feelings of unworthiness. I was his pure and perfect bride.
“How easy it is for us to think that we're utterly unlovely—especially to someone as lovely as Christ. But he loves us with the bright eyes of a Bridegroom's love and cannot wait for the day we are united with him forever.”[1]
Do you ever feel like you just can’t wait to be with Jesus? Does the thought of seeing His face take your breath away? Do you spend time imagining how you’ll feel when you see Him for the first time?
I just learned about some Jewish wedding customs that Jesus would have been familiar with when He was here on earth.

Marriage in Jesus’ time looked a little bit like it does today; there was an engagement period and then the wedding. The engagement part was called the Kiddushin and it was much more strict than what we consider an engagement. During the Kiddushin, they were actually considered legally bound to one another, just like they were already married.

The couple wasn’t just hanging out during this time, the man was supposed to be spending his time preparing a place for his bride.

Then, when everything was ready, it would be time for the Nisuin. That’s when the husband would come and claim his wife, take her to the home he had made for them and they would begin their lives together.[2]

Doesn’t that sound familiar?
“‘Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.’” John 14:1-4
Now, you’ve got to admit that’s pretty romantic!

You know, I see people all the time who are so afraid of being alone that they will submit to terrible, hurtful and abusive relationships. In an attempt to make themselves happy, they have condemned themselves to misery. But Jesus want us to know is that no matter how perfect we believe our relationship is, that other person will let us down.  The honeymoon will end in all our earthly relationships. But when our fist relationship is with Jesus, that honeymoon will never end. Jesus will never let us down.
“You shall be called by a new name, Which the mouth of the Lord will name. You shall also be a crown of glory In the hand of the Lord, And a royal diadem In the hand of your God You shall no longer be termed Forsaken … And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So shall your God rejoice over you.”  Isaiah 62:2-5
Try to picture that for a minute. God will rejoice over you like a bridegroom does his bride. Can you really imagine that?  I mean, we can see ourselves rejoicing because we’re with God, but He’s rejoicing over us! Each, individual one of us, is so important to God that, for Him, Heaven won’t be the same without even one of His children. 
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2
How romantic.

[1] This We Believe: The Good News of Jesus Christ for the World, (Zondervan) p. 222
[2] Judaism 101, “Marriage,” (accessed January 10, 2011).

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