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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Mixed Metaphors; Child Brides

The latest historical studies are showing that Mary, who mothered our Lord, was most likely 12 or 13 years old when she married Joseph. Although the practice of men, sometimes much older men taking brides of this age still goes on in many Middle-Eastern nations, as well as certain others, it is most certainly not acceptable in our Western Culture!

Of late, there has been a discussion going on between certain Christians & within certain groups of Christians as to whether we, as 21st Christians, or really post first-century Christians, are the Bride of Christ, the Church, or whether we are simply the Offspring of the Marriage of Heaven & Earth! Are we the Bride of Christ or simply Children of God? It is true that Jesus calls us 'brethren' ( though, in reality, it was those first-century Christians ), but was He simply saying that we are His spiritual brethren or that we are actually His brothers & sisters?

One problem that some have revealed with the claim that we are the Bride of Christ is that He has called us brethren, saying that those who follow Him are His 'brother, and sister and mother'. If indeed we, in the 21st century, are the Bride of Christ, then how are we His 'brother, and sister and mother'? This mixing of metaphors can be rather confusing when one thinks too much about it! Did the Son of God marry His sister, brother & mother? No, of course not & yes, He has made us all, as one Church, one Body, His Bride!

Another objection to the notion that we are the Bride of Christ is that, according to some, only that first-century Church was the Bride of Christ! After the Marriage of Heaven & Earth, a concept I am totally comfortable with, the claim is that we are 'simply' the offspring of that Marriage & thus not the Bride! However, if we are not the Bride, is it correct to call ourselves the Church, or even the Body of Christ? Who are we, if not the Church?! What are we, if not His Body?!

To say that we are both the Children of God, or the Offspring of the Marriage of Heaven & Earth, as well as the Church, the Bride of Christ does seem a bit confusing until one realizes that we are speaking of spiritual matters here, not biology! I have written somewhat explicitly in the past on this subject, implying that our Heavenly Father is a sexual Being! Really, when you think of His Spirit overshadowing the Virgin Mary & impregnating her with the Christ, what else are we to think?

With our innate focus on the physical, it is easy to see how we might confuse these metaphors to be intimating that we cannot be both the Bride of Christ & the Children of God! Some might see fit rather to explain that, as Jesus was/is the Son of God, when the Church was married to Him as the Bride of Christ, they ( we ) became the Children ( Sons ) of God through that Union! One could get into some pretty hot water here! Are we Sons of God because our Mother, the Church was married to Our Heavenly Father & Jesus was/is our brother, or are we Sons ( Children ) of God because we have been united in Holy Matrimony ( Covenant ) with Him?

In the past several years, certainly no more than a decade or so, the practice of solemnizing marriage by covenant rather than by state license has gained ascendency among many Christians! We realize, by this practice, that not only does the state NOT have jurisdiction in this area, but that it is covenant, not license that makes this Blessed Union of Souls! As the apostle wrote, our human ( individual ) marriages are simply a picture of the Marriage of Heaven & Earth, or Christ & His Bride! Physically speaking, the union of man & wife represents the Spiritual Union of Creator & Creation!

It is by no means wrong to say that we are the Offspring ( Children ) of that Blessed Union! It is also very correct to say that we are the Bride of Christ, the Church! As the People of God, we are the same Body as those first-century Jews & Gentiles who made Covenant with the Son of David as surely as David covenanted with Jonathan! Although centuries & millennia apart in Time, in Eternity, we are still the same Church that was formed from the side of Jesus!

As the Bride of Christ & His Body the Church, we are in Spiritual Union with our Heavenly Father! This is not a sexual Union, as that between a man & wife, thus, it produces no offspring, at least, not in the way that we normally are used to thinking. This Union expands the borders of the Kingdom of God through Spiritual Generation! The product of this Spiritual Generation is simply incorporated into the Body of Christ through means of Covenant, thus becoming part of the Church!

Even in today's day & age, it is not unusual for a man to introduce his wife as 'my bride', although they have been married quite a few years! Although some time has passed, he honors the covenant he made with his bride those many long years ago! Our Heavenly Father, even more so, though He consummated the Union with His Bride a couple thousand years ago ( though what is time, to Him ) still gazes upon His Bride with wonder & adoration!

Charles Haddon Shank

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