. . . the sheep hear His voice; and He calls his own sheep by name . . . . (John 10:3).
I remember sitting in the chapel on the Yokosuka Naval Base nearly 40 years ago during Sunday morning worship service. And I still remember squirming in my pew as some guy stood on the platform and sang a hymn to Christ. Part of the lyrics were, “I love you, Jesus.”
I felt oddly uncomfortable to hear a man profess his deep love for another man.
Thankfully, my faith matured over the years. Now I wonder why any Christian would not publicly proclaim his or her love for Jesus. I love Him. Deeply. Intimately. Emotionally. Physically. With my mind, heart, soul, and strength. He is my best friend. My confidant. My lover. My . . . yes, my Bridegroom.
For as long as I have been a Christian – since 1972 – I’ve known the Church is the Bride of Christ. Scripture says so. But in recent years I have heard some in the Church opine that while the Church is Christ’s bride, individual Christians are not.
But who is it that comprises the Church if not individuals? To think otherwise is analogous to saying “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son” (John 3:16) – but He did not give His son for individuals, like me. Or you. To reduce the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7) to the community, and remove the individuals within the community is like saying Jesus did not seek the one lost sheep from the ninety-nine; that He didn’t search for the one coin lost among the many; that He didn’t seek the one prodigal from the family. It is like saying the Church has a relationship with Christ, but individuals cannot. It is like saying when St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians (5:25), “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her” he did not mean to say Jesus gave Himself up for me.
Of course Jesus gave Himself for me! I am the reason He died. And Jesus gave Himself for you, too. You are the reason Jesus died.
Yes, God addresses the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, and the Church in the New. But it is equally true God had a personal relationship with individuals in both groups: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon, Peter, James, Paul, John.
Isaiah wrote: As a bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so your God will rejoice over you (Isaiah 62:5) Zephaniah added, The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy. He will renew you in His love. He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy (Zephaniah 3:17) And the Holy Spirit, writing of the future Marriage Supper of the Lamb, spoke through Solomon to individuals within the Church: Arise my darling, my beautiful one, and come along. For behold, the winter is past. The rains are over and gone. The flowers have appeared in the land and the time has arrived for singing. The fig tree has ripened its figs and the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance. Arise my darling, my beautiful one, and come along (Song of Songs 2:10-13).
Jesus loves me and you – individuals. That is why we can each have an individual love relationship with Jesus. And those who love Him are members individually of the Church and individually Christ’s bride. That's why St. Paul told the people in the Church at Corinth: Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it (1 Corinthians 12:27).
How does that work, to be the Church and also part of it? I don’t know.
But neither do I understand any of the mysteries of God. It is simply a wonderful truth I know to be true because Scripture says it from one end of the book to the other.
Oh, how wonderful is the Savior's love that He would make me and you -- sinners as we are -- His bride!
Let's get ready for the wedding.