I’m thankful that I’m married.
Watching my single friends run through the gambit of 21st century dating etiquette allows me to feel all the more blessed.
The onslaught of what is considered culturally acceptable on social media platforms boggles the mind as many freely expose the dark taboo-ish corners of their lives in an effort to gain attention through individualism and avant garde living. I’m amazed at what is considered “commonplace” in the arena of social media. Passive aggressive girlfriends who, with their forked tongues, speak slander and praise as an attempt to manipulate their way through relationships. Misogynist man-boys who’s goal is to mark their territory and expand their imaginary empires by the means of lies, deception and emotional thievery. This formerly sealed off corner now has the spotlight through the likes of reality TV and no-holds-barred social media. The landscape is hostile, lawless and ultimately narcissistic.
This paradigm shift makes me all the more satisfied that I not only have a wife, but that I love her and find security and assurance in our relationship. Sure neither of us are close to being perfect and our relationship has its ups and downs, but as I watch while others openly live their lives in the public forum, I began to entertain a thought. What would the bride of Christ, which is the church, look like within the confines of modern day social media? Do we look passive aggressive? Do we jump into the relationship just to strip-mine the benefits for ourselves and then bail? Are we emotionally unbalanced? What is our current mental state? I recently read an article on “Ask Men” titled “10 signs she’s crazy.” In the article the author lays out 10 signs that you might be dating someone who is crazy and when I compared the list to the current state of the Church, the results were scary.
10. Controls Narrative
We like to be the one that controls the narrative. So often, God’s word is conformed to our worldview instead of our worldview being conformed to God’s word. We control this narrative through many ways such as the purpose and direction of the church service, how worship is viewed and a strange view of what prayer actually is. I could spend much time delving into how the modern church is embracing culture instead of maintaining its position as counter-cultural, but for the sake of time I’m going to focus on prayer. Prayer is often viewed as a literal conversation between us and God. In the personal setting many are instructed to find a quiet room, talk to God and wait in silence until he answers. This is the perceived “conversation” that many Christians expect. However, this is not the biblical definition of prayer. Prayer is simply talking to God, through Jesus. The perfect picture of this is found in the Old Testament where the high priest would offer prayers for the people and would burn incense to represent the prayers ascending to God. Interestingly enough, the smoke never descended back to the people. Nor did it change back to incense and audibly reply. This is because prayer is not like our earthly conversations. We should not expect an answer directly from God, but instead should seek answers in his word. That is how God speaks to us. Prayer is not a conversation. Look at the Psalms. David was a prophet and how many of his prayers were conversational? Jesus is God and taught us how to pray in Matthew 6 and Mark 11. Jesus’ prayer doesn’t end “…and deliver us from evil and answer me back to let me know if I should date Cindy.” The Lord’s Prayer was given because it shows God’s precise will for each of our lives. It’s not that Cindy doesn’t matter, but that if you are honestly praying the contents of the Lord’s prayer, then you will trust that his will be done. I am not saying that God could not talk directly to us, only that direct revelation is not normative. The modern church correctly takes its every need and desire to God, as directed through scripture, but controls dialogue when answers are sought outside the appropriate method of response, given by God, which is through his word. The answers to our prayers will ultimately be answered as God perfectly reveals his will in his perfect time.
9. Self Aggrandizing
There is so much self importance placed upon the individual that Christ is left as a supporting cast member instead the lead actor. This happens often as many sermons are set up to make us feel important. These days, it’s more important to make people feel like they have purpose than to show them they are a sinner in desperate need of salvation. I mean, who wants to feel bad about themselves? Many pastors subtly engage in this behavior by reading themselves into the biblical texts. When the narrative of David and Goliath is the Sunday text, the pastor compares the congregations life to that of David and accordingly asks them to identify the “Goliath” in their lives. This belittling of the biblical narrative not only takes our eyes off of Christ and his scarlet thread through the old testament, but feeds our inner narcissist as we suddenly have the power to slay our giants of guilt, debt or anger. The problem is that Goliath was a real Philistine giant not a projection of our problems. The bible is not about us. The bible is about Jesus and what he has done FOR us. All things point to him and we can rest in what he has accomplished in our place. The bible isn’t a self help book that leads us on a path to self actualization, but instead is a book enables us to die to self as we place our faith in Christ Jesus, Emmanuel, that came, bled, died and rose again for our justification. The church should be aggrandizing it’s groom, Jesus, not itself.
8. Hates other women
How often do Christians look down on unbelievers living in exposed sin? How often are our lives lived as if we are sinning less and less while the world around us are way worse sinners than we are? Have you ever caught yourself feeling pretty good on the inside when a person that annoys you gets caught in sin? Have you ever had a person tailgate you for 10 miles until you move over and let them pass only to think “I hope there’s a cop up there waiting to give them a ticket” as if you never speed? How about realizing that you are sinning by not speeding because your motive for driving under the limit is fueled by greed instead of a desire to serve Christ through obedience? How often do we look like Pharisees on both the inside and out. This attitude against unbelievers is true hatred. Love would come along side them. Love is not haughty. Love would not discount the damage and and ugliness of their sin, but would point to Christ as the one who died and rose again for those sins. Love would point to repentance, not as a process to perfection, but as a realization of complete inability to please God apart from the work of Jesus Christ. True love doesn’t hate others through haughty eyes that see the spec in their neighbor’s eye while missing the plank in their own. We often harbor hatred for others because of our own insecurities. We may have been deeply, personally hurt by a particular sin of others and now paint those with even a hint of that sin with the broad brush of reprobation. We often hate because we see what we don’t like about ourselves or our experiences in others. That sin is just as damning as the sin committed against us because both sins are in opposition to God. This is precisely what 1 John 4:20 is talking about.
7. Isolates herself
How many times do we like to hang out in our comfortable groups, speaking Christianese as a way to protect ourselves against the trials and tribulations of this world. This is not only unhealthy for us, it is also hypocritical. Hanging out with “only” Christians as we isolate ourselves not only implies superiority, but also projects an unloving attitude. This attitude will reveal itself in the places in which we are in contact with the largest population of unbelievers…which is usually our work environments. Our unbelieving co-workers are curious as to why we claim to be Christians, but fail to show them any love or always turn them down when they extend an invitation. The mission field is wherever our vocation is. Every time we head into the office, job site or the onto the production floor we carry the torch of Christianity through our thought, word and deed. The same goes for when we visit others work places as we dine in restaurants, pick up our children at daycare and interact with others at the grocery store. The world doesn’t need to see us in our collective groups of dissociation. The world needs to hear the comfort of the full proclamation of the gospel message. The world needs to know that we struggle just as they struggle, but that our faith and hope lay in the one who came and died for the sins of the world instead of faith in our works. Isolation is not an adjective that defines the Christian life.
6. Weird about Exes
We are pretty weird about our exes. Our exes in this case are the idols that we used to (and continue) to exalt in place of God. These idols could be food, comfort, luxury, pietism, other people…really anything. As Calvin famously said, our hearts are idol factories. This being the case, we are weird about them. We struggle to call them what they are. We often run back to them in an attempt to satisfy the longings of our sinful flesh. It’s a weird coping mechanism. On one hand we hate and renounce them while on the other, we secretly love and cling to them. Our God is a jealous God who doesn’t desire to interact with our former crushes. He wishes to exterminate them and call them out for what they really are…false securities of our sinful flesh.
5. False Accusations
Many times in an effort to comfort ourselves, we project our shortcomings onto our loved ones. When we see the things that we hate so much about ourselves in other people we tend to harp on it. This is an interesting paradigm when compared to our relationship with Christ. How many times, in our sin, have we said “Well you made me this way.” How often to we project our shortcomings onto Christ as if he is responsible for our condition. The interesting twist is that even though he is not responsible for our condition, he did willingly and actively take our place on the cross. He bore each and everyone of our sins that we falsely blame him for to earn our pardon. He defeated death and the false accusations which to him were very real, true and painful as he suffered and died only to rise again for our justification.
4. Shaves her head
We are attention seekers. We really love attention even if it’s negative. We do weird things in order to steal the spotlight. Many times these weird things are a blemish to the name of Christ. We do many of these attention seeking acts in the name of relevance with the tag line “If it could only save one person…” as our qualifier. We shave our heads by attempting to make the worship service “entertaining.” This could be as ridiculous as an arena rock service with smoke machines and laser lights or as head scratching as a Mixed Martial Arts Fight Church (I am not lying. This is a real thing). This is akin to the girlfriend that always acts outrageous as a means to gain acceptance, while her boyfriend stands at the side shaking his head in disgust. Once again the church is and always will be counter-cultural. It’s not counter-cultural to draw attention to itself because it’s an attention seeker, but because we have been given a true picture of what the church should look like in scripture and it’s never been bright lights and parties to draw in unbelievers. For 120 years Noah preached the word to all who would hear. Scripture doesn’t tell us that Noah offered free drinks, a rock concert and a MMA fight to get people into the Ark. He simply preached the word. Sure the Ark was a spectacle. A spectacle of ridicule instead of relevance. The same Ark that he was ridiculed for building, is the same Ark that God used to save him and the only 7 others in the world that believed God’s word, which were Noah’s family. We shouldn’t figuratively shave our heads to focus the attention on us, but instead should stay with the outline that Scripture gives us and focus the spotlight on Jesus Christ. Anything we do to steal the spotlight, will take our eyes off of him.
3. Hits below the belt
This can either be a literal kick or an verbal spar. Either are equally painful. Angry and hateful comments about our family or lack of success should be off limits to our spouses, but sometimes find themselves fair game in the heat of battle. The church utilizes these cheap shots against our Lord and Savior when we deny the efficacy of the sacraments. Jesus, through his word, promises to be present and offer gifts through baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and absolution of sin. When the church, through many denominations, deny what Jesus proclaims using arguments of fallen reason, it is a hit below the belt. Jesus offers to meet us and give himself to us through these particular means and many reject them because it doesn’t fit within their comfort zone or desired understanding. I am sure that some will take exception with this, but think about it for a moment. If the sacraments are truly efficacious, as I believe the word clearly proclaims, then rejecting them on any basis would be a supreme low blow to the one offering his presence and gifts.
2. Contradicts herself
This deals with the sad fact that many Christians that I run into, couldn’t explain their faith if their life depended on it. Jay Leno used to have a segment called “man on the street” where random tourists outside his studio would be asked insanely simple questions and fail to give the correct answer. If we did a similar experiment in many of our churches, I hypothesize that the results would be similar. This is a major issue because those participating in Jay Leno’s segment aren’t making a knowledge or affiliated claim before being subjected to the simple questions whereas those in the church are claiming fellowship and thus should know something substantive about what they believe. This does not mean that each and every Christian should be able to succinctly wax eloquent on the hypostatic union, but should at minimal, be able to defend the faith they claim to lay hold of. When we don’t know what we believe, we become walking and talking contradictions. These contradictions are easy to spot and make us easy picking for false teachings and teachers who will gladly guide us to apostasy. Could you imagine a marriage where the wife has only superficial knowledge of her husband? Could you imagine the confusion and utter amazement of the husband for how clueless his wife really is? It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out that the relationship is based off of what the bride can “get” instead of actual genuine, sacrificial love.
1. Other crazy people think she’s crazy
Atheists and agnostics are quick to point out all the craziness that was pointed out in the previous 9 signs. While I am fine with a self-proclaimed atheist or agnostic calling me crazy if I am proclaiming the truth of the gospel, (1 Corinthians 1:18 tells us that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing) it’s a whole other story to behave in the fashion of the “signs” listed above and be justly labeled crazy. There is a difference. Accept the label of foolishness for the message of the cross, not because you exhibit behavior found in the above “signs” of craziness.
Is this what the true bride of Christ looks like or is this some doppelganger infiltrating the ranks of Christendom? As much as I would like to lay the blame on an evil twin, scripture gives us picture of what we look like and it’s messy. Throughout scripture the church is compared to a prostitute. Our story is more desperate than we’d like to admit. This doesn’t mean that we are supposed to give up and give into our sin nature as scripture also gives us a picture of what we should strive to look like. We will continually fall short of the goal, but his grace gifted to us is what gives life to the striving. We have been redeemed. Purchased for a price. Bought and freed from the bounds of sin, death, and the devil. Our groom is the text-book example of loving and puts up with our garbage as he continues to strengthen and encourage our faith in him through word and sacrament. So yes we have many problems and need counseling. Yet, even though we are trapped in these earthen vessels, we can look forward with faith, hope and love to our wedding day when we are finally united with our groom who gave it all for us so that we can have freedom in him. We are the treasure in the field.