Modern Christianity, although it seeks desperately the heart of Jesus, has one fatal flaw: it seeks to capture, not to be taken captive. And this is an exceptionally important difference.
We are taught in today's church that Christianity is an outward movement. On the personal side, it is an outward movement of worship, of prayer, of Bible reading, of the spiritual disciplines, of service, etc. On the communal side, it is an outward movement of outreach. We have taken very seriously the Great Commission, which is to go and make disciples of all nations, but we forget the heart that beats behind it all.
That little verse that says, "We love because He first loved us."
To put it another way, modern Christianity has so focused itself on its outward reach that today's church is full of bridesmaids, not the bride. We're all so busy trying to help others get to the altar, to make their day special and beautiful, to play a supporting role in their betrothal, that we've forgotten that when the music plays, we are the ones who will walk down the aisle and see our Groom standing there waiting for us.
We are the ones who will take His breath away.
At least, that's how it's supposed to be. That's how God envisioned it. I think today's church, and modern Christianity in general, wants us to skip right ahead from the infatuation of dating to the settled rhythms of a long marriage without ever really entering into this betrothal and covenantal phase wherein the Bridegroom makes us feel...beloved. We're supposed to just go from falling in love with Jesus to getting others to fall in love with Jesus, from walking into our church to getting others to walk into our church.
And then when we get there, all of our lessons, all of our studies, all of our focus is on getting the persons in our church - ourselves included - to love Jesus more. It's not we, the bridesmaids, who are beloved; neither is it them, the bride. Rather, we invest almost all of our religious efforts at convincing converts that He is our beloved.
After, of course, we sucker them in by telling them how much He loves them, a point we almost never touch on again once they are firmly in the door.
Oh, we might occasionally mention it. We might say things like, "God loves you so much" or even "God loves me so much," but it's an intellectual assent; it's something we "know." It's not a matter of the heart. There are not many among us who know how deeply God loves us.
And that's a problem.
We feel it. We all know we feel it. Because when someone else walks through our doors, when someone else steps into our baptistery, when someone else says, "Yes! I do!" we feel the pang in our own hearts. We feel our own love story rekindled. We feel the ache in our heart that wonders, wonders because it was never given time to know, if it is beloved. We look down at our worn, tattered, is-this-even-a-real-color bridesmaid dresses, and we twirl around a little bit, pretending, imagining that the flowing train is our. Imagining that the swirling skirt is ours. Imagining that it is us who the whole world turned around to see when the music started. It was a moment we...almost....had...
Before we were told that wasn't it at all. Before we were told that it was our duty to love Him. Before we were told that it was our job to bring others to Him. Before we were convinced that this whole Christianity thing was about loving God and making disciples.
Before the modern church shoved a program in our hands and told us, sorry, you're the bridesmaid.
And God loves you for it. You know, like a best friend or something.
And so, we've lost our belovedness. We've lost that sense that God deeply loves us. We've lost that understanding of our inherent beauty and wonder and value in God's eyes. Because modern Christianity has made us all bridesmaids, every one of us.
Even though deep in our hearts, we long to be brides.