I would like to raise a question on a subject I have pondered long on. I am sure many Christians have either heard of or read the book by Joshua Harris on romance and relationship, wittily titled “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” I myself have read it 4 times and highlighted passages from nearly every page. Contrary to what the title suggests, this book does not blindly condemn dating or even necessarily condone courting. Honestly, it sets a very unique premise based on Scripture that leads to a standard of romance and relationship entirely different than either as defined by our culture—that women, being created in the image of God, must first see themselves as the priceless treasures that they are in God’s eyes. By definition, this must change the way women or men approach dating, courtship, marriage—everything. From now on I will call it the “Bridal Mindset.”
My question is this: if we the Church (both women and men) are called the “Bride of Christ,” what are the ramifications of applying the “Bridal Mindset” to our faith? And what lifestyles do we need to change to accurately reflect our betrothal to Him?
In order for us all to be on the same page in spiritual matters, we must first establish what it means to be a Biblical bride as it pertains to an earthly husband. Let us establish two premises:
- That a woman is of great worth, having been created in God’s image. She is an expensive treasure.
- That the joy of marriage far exceeds the sacrifices made to nurture and establish a strong, healthy, intimate relationship.
A woman is not a cheap thing for a man to acquire. This is an extremely important point that our culture refuses to respect. First, consider how many men take out a woman (call it a date, call it an outing…the label is not important) simply for the hormonal rush, while disregarding how the woman will feel after they “dump” her? What price have these men paid to flirt with a woman’s feelings? Anyone can agree that sexual emotions are some of the most powerful and deep feelings given to humanity. What right does a man have to “try out” a woman like a piece of merchandise when he has committed nothing in return to her, whether it be security, financial support (sorry, a woman’s soul is worth far more than dinner), or protection. He has paid nothing to flirt with her heart.
Most merchandise can be tested out and returned in the same condition. A women’s heart cannot. If a man takes it for a test drive, he puts thoughts, emotions, and deep scars into it. That heart cannot return to the shelf unchanged. How many hours will that woman spend afterwards fretting over questions like “Does he still like me?” “Why doesn’t he say all those nice things to me anymore?” “What did I do wrong?” “Is there something wrong with me?” All of this worry and heartache because a man was not willing to take seriously the price tag fashioned on a woman’s heart.
I am afraid many of my male readers will think at this point I am overstating the issue. I warn you: never underestimate a woman’s heart. Only then can we men truly appreciate our future wives! Consider how differently one treats a paper towel from a diploma. They are both made of paper, right? Yet one is recognized to have a higher price and is cherished for the price of four or more years of labor. The other is used once or twice and discarded.
Trying out a woman’s heart is all too often the cause of heartbreak in our American world. A man thinks a girl is cute (as if physical beauty is the measure of a woman! Heavens that it ever came to this. Charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting as Proverbs 31:30 testifies), so he asks her out to dinner and a movie. During the meal, he asks suggestive questions about plans for raising a family, building a home, personal feelings (as if a stranger has a right to pry such!) to get her emotionally clicking. At the movie, they snuggle up closely. The guy holds her hand all through the film while a wave of ecstasy and hormonal activity stirs within the woman. Afterwards in the parking lot they talk for a half hour. They kiss. They arrange another date.
Months fly by and they are inseparable—that is, until he suddenly finds someone else out of whom to derive a sexual kick. He no longer shows her attention by calling her or visiting her or sending funny text messages. The man may not have felt any pain at their parting, but the woman certainly did. While he flirts with another, she staggers heartbroken for weeks until she finds herself another boyfriend with whom to repeat the painful cycle.
This type of “try-out” relationship is woefully as standard in the Church as grits are in the Southeast. If the name of Jesus were not mentioned, the couple would look exactly like the world save for the cross necklace. Christian women let the world teach them to advertise their physical beauty, whether it be figure, dress, or personality. But what does this advertising attract? Clients who wish to buy you for temporary, frivolous qualities. How many women advertise their character or faith in God with half the zeal that they pamper themselves in the bathroom for date night? I am asking these probing questions not to point, but to convict us in whether or not we are falsely advertising ourselves and selling the wrong product. If we are going to advertise accurately, we must sell our real selves (defined as the inner man/woman in 1 Samuel 16:7), not our smooth skin or fair hair that eventually becomes the dust we vacuum off the floor.
So we ask the question: should it be this way? Should a woman be treated like a sexual vending machine for a dozen men to take out for a spin, rather than a priceless, gentle spirit that only the best of men can afford to pay the price for? Anyone can make a woman blubber and blush (not to say that women are weak, but that most play “the game”). But who will stand up and put aside immediate sexual pleasure and instant gratification to ensure that they are the right person for her? Now there is truly a man who selflessly loves a woman.
I can only imagine the joy a bride feels when she finally walks the aisle to her husband waiting onstage. Imagine her uncontrollable smile at being bought by such a man. She is his, and he is hers forever.
Now imagine the double portion of joy when she has kept herself from other relationships that would have defamed her cost as a woman of God. She has saved herself up—her emotions, wonder, and infatuation—for this one man. A woman who has already let other men tamper with her in the “bridal store” may instead be thinking of all the useless relationships she allowed herself be swept into, and I am sure they steal at least some joy from the wedding. Guilt is now present at what should be the most ecstatic of events on earth (no consonance intended). Ladies, I admonish you to be a bride who remains pure to the wedding day. Do not fiddle with men who are willing to take you out but are not willing to put aside their suggestive looks and gestures to bruise your heart if they leave. There is nothing more beautiful than a woman who puts aside frivolity for nobler ends and nobler men, waiting with patience until the day she can finally “let it all out.” Imagine how dull it would be to have Christmas every day, rather than once a year!
And now that we have established the “Bridal Mindset” for Christian woman, we now turn to our betrothal to Christ Himself. If we are His bride, how should we live in a world run by Satan—opposing the statutes of God and living contrary to His will? We have been told by Scripture that, though we are in the world, we are not of it as new creations in Christ (Romans 12:2, John 15:19). God forbid that we would behave like that which we were converted from!
We can apply the two premises (expounded on earlier) to the life of a Christian, namely:
- That, having been purchased by the blood of Christ, our worth in Him exceedingly great. That He would place upon our souls such a price as requiring the very blood of His only Son to redeem us is unfathomable.
- That the joy of being wed to our Heavenly Groom Jesus will far outweigh any suffering, persecution, or deprivation of worldly things.
Christ paid a hefty sum to purchase us as His treasured Bride—the payment being His own blood…the blood of God! It took that kind of currency to purchase and cleanse us. Wow. Ponder for a moment (or rather all day) our value in Christ. If He placed such a price tag on us, what objects, idols, philosophies, causes, or principalities on this earth could possibly have the means to claim us as their possession to flirt with? The answer is no one or nothing.
Yet what do we see most Christians doing? Unfortunately, we (including I) do flirt with the world. We advertise ourselves as cool, fashionable, secure, popular, and successful to attract friendships from worldly-minded people. And like the world, we spend too much time in the mirror, in the store, and the “in-groups” and cliques—all so that we can blend in with the world.
Wait, Christians are putting their energies into resembling the world? God help us that we ever came to this point. Horrifyingly, there is almost nothing that distinguishes the typical group of Christian teens from their secular counterparts. I am not condemning, but calling us all—myself included—to rethink whether or not our life is honestly reflecting our marriage to Christ.
To be perfectly candid as “social Christians,” we spend more time in a catalog browsing anything from weathered loafers to shiny iPads to cute pillows (I am guilty of the last two) than we do pondering on our handsome Groom. Not to say there is anything wrong with stuff, but that our flesh in the absence of a spirit wholly consumed by the Holy Spirit ravenously longs for objects to distract itself with. These things are called “encumbrances” by the writer of Hebrews in the 12th chapter:
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy 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)
Notice that he clearly distinguishes encumbrances from sin. An encumbrance is a burden or impediment that hinders our walk with Christ. Nearly anything on this earth can become an encumbrance. Your encumbrances could be lipstick, hair products, the latest Apple product, furniture, deodorant, or a person. Ask God and yourself if some earthly item is taking up too much of your thoughts, browsing time, and researching energy. Be honest. There may be nothing wrong with stylish clothes, but if you find yourself too often at Kohl’s obsessing over a wrinkled dress shirt, fashion may be trying to control you. Christ said you are worth His blood, not a piece of fabric. Be careful what tries to buy your heart on this earth, and remember that what ever consumes your mind will fill your heart, out of which the mouth speaks and the hands act!
I was convicted by God recently of my obsession with technology, home decor, and other things I found myself susceptible to. I would often spend hours trying to get the best deals on the absolute best products, while the very thought of those things distracted me during prayer, kept me awake at night, and tempted my hands to browse those things online. It even made creative outlets like composition harder to enjoy. After prayer and several half-hearted starts, I decided I had to completely annihilate any sources that contained these encumbrances. I tore up and threw away catalogs, unsubscribed from store emails, and stopped browsing stores that carried those products. I stopped browsing their sites. I treated these things like pornography, while I also spent more time in prayer and thinking on God’s Word. It may sound like overkill, but it was necessary for me. It has been well said that in order for a Christian to hear and obey the Spirit, he should starve the flesh (for me, less exposure to material items) and feed the Spirit (more prayer, Scripture reading, etc.). Before that, stuff had purchased me. While I know that I could easily be recaptured by these desires if I started browsing again, I currently find myself thinking less and less about those things while I ponder better, nobler things, thanks to God!
Finally, as the Bride of Christ, we must remember that He Himself is the object of our pursuit. The verses above exhort us to “set our eyes upon Jesus.” I am concerned many of us assume the “martyr mentality,” when we see ourselves as suffering for Christ (the attitude being, “Look at what I’ve suffered for you”) rather than pursuing Him. What bride would walk the aisle and whisper to her husband-to-be, “I hope you understand all that I’ve suffered and all the other guys I have given up to marry you?” No, she would be too filled with ecstasy over her husband, the desire of her heart, to think of those things. As Christians, we can be certain of far more ecstasy in being wed to Christ than even our earthly spouses. The only reason we forego pleasures and suffer persecution in this life is because we are madly in love with Jesus our Heavenly Husband! Let us not complain to Him about all we have done for Him, for Christ Himself is the greatest treasure a man or woman could ever hope to acquire.