So, who is the church? We’ve been taught to stay away from language like, what is the church. The church is not a what. She is a who. She is the bride. Albeit, a messy one. What do the unchurched think about when they consider a bride?
A bride in our day often connotes privilege, refinement and money. The circulation according to Cision, an organization that tracks magazine circulation in the United States, says the top 10 bridal magazines have a circulation of over 2 ½ million. The wedding industry brought in approximately $40 billion in 2010. The average cost of a wedding dress is $1,200 and the groom fresh out of college, making $25,000 in his first job will spend approximately ⅕ of his annual income on an engagement ring. The average cost of a wedding in the United States in 2012 was $28,300. For the modern American bride, there are jewelry, gowns, and social status involved.
Are we to ask is this the image Paul had in mind when he spoke of the bride of Christ? 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5: 24-32. Is this what the bride has become? In the first century, being a bride was a bit different. The image Paul uses is mystical but he had something in mind when he gave definition to the church being a bride. The bride represented reconciliation and relationship between the families. She was a bridge between families, protected, both a servant and a one being served.
To understand where the unchurched are with the Church, let’s consider where they are with God. Is there a fundamental misunderstanding of who God is?
Many years ago, the Simpsons offered this consideration of who God is. The great American philosopher Lisa Simpson, in Season 2 said to her equally spiritual brother Bart, ‘I heard you [praying] last night, Bart… Now your prayers have been answered. I’m no theologian. I don’t know who or what God is exactly. All I know is he’s a force more powerful than Mom and Dad put together and you owe him big.’
You owe God big is what many people think of when they consider God. Mixed messages from Christians is often what the ‘unchurched’ hear. We who are the bride, the Church, we eagerly anticipate the day of the Lord. In the meantime, let us be both faithful and bearers of the true image of the bride, the image of redemption and reconciliation.
Rebecca Terhune, ’15