Thursday, November 25, 2004

Bride As Metaphor

My last post concerned the meaningfulness of new metaphors. My basic premise is that a metaphor that doesn't have the power to change -- at a deep, instinctive level -- the way that we view and approach life, isn't helpful to us. The example I gave was of a gas station attendant calling him/herself a "Petroleum Transfer Engineer"; it sounds more impressive but it doesn't change anything of consequence.

Wendy and I were looking at the metaphor of the "Bride" as we discussed the power (or lack of power) in adopting new metaphors. "The Bride of Christ" is a recurring metaphor found within the Bible itself, and while I'm not suggesting that this means it should trump all other metaphors, it's as good as place as any to start.
(It might be beneficial to note that if metaphors work mostly to make us comfortable and at ease, then they may be more self-serving than sanctifying.)
In our contemporary society, the Bride as metaphor would be interpreted that God is the Lover of our souls, the One who wooes us to Himself, who loves us to the ultimate act of self-sacrifice to re-establish relationship between Himself and His rebellious creation. Again, this interpretation of the Bride metaphor can certainly be found in Scripture and is helpful to us.

But as Wendy pointed out, a significant difference is that our contemporary society has made the wedding day and ceremony revolve around the Bride -- it's "the bride's day". To the original hearers/readers of Paul's letters, however, it was entirely the opposite:
  • the Groom came for the bride at an undisclosed time, so the bride had to make sure she was always ready (think of how well that would go over today!)
  • the Bride gave up all her rights
  • the Bride was completely dependent on the Groom
  • while contemporary marriages are a partnership of equals, this was not the case to the original hearers/readers of this metaphor
Personally, I like the egalitarian partnership of equals in my own marriage, but I would like to suggest that our interpretation of what it means to be the Bride of Christ should look more to the first-century understanding. For example, can we imagine the arrogance to think that the metaphor of "the Bride" meant that we were an egalitarian partnership of equals -- us and Jesus? If we look to the Bride as a metaphor for "the church", in the first century understanding, what does that imply? For a few things (certainly not an exhaustive list):
  • we give up our rights (as opposed to "I've accepted Jesus, but I haven't made Him Lord of my life" -- that kind of thinking is not only faulty, but dangerous)
  • we are completely dependent (as opposed to "Oh, God, would You add Your blessing to what we've done" added almost as an afterthought to all of our busywork)
  • we live by His timetable, not expecting Him to abide by ours (as opposed to "I really must get around to dealing with that area of my life...")
  • It really IS all about the Groom and His story (as opposed to expecting that we are the focal point, and we are simply adding Jesus to OUR story)
Well, whaddaya think? Any other input or suggestions on the implications of the Bride as a metaphor?

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