To be honest, it has been difficult for me to fully engage in the bride metaphor. I helped my wife make some decisions for our wedding day, but she did most of the real work, with her mother’s assistance. I was much too wrapped up with my own anxieties to think about what might be going on in the bridal room where my wife was preparing. I didn’t see her until she emerged from the back of the sanctuary, the most beautiful woman I had ever laid eyes on.
What are men supposed to do with the Bride metaphor? After all, you don’t see a lot of men’s sports teams sponsored by bridal shops. The bride’s experience will always have a certain mystique to grooms, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Of course, I totally get Paul’s reference to Christ, the Groom, who gave His life to secure His Bride’s purity. But this truth involves a male perspective.
I also struggle to understand my relationship to a collective metaphor. Am I the Bride of Christ when I am alone, or only when I am with other brothers and sisters in Christ? Is He my groom, our groom, or both? Perhaps I am complicating things too much, but I find it much easier to see myself as a part of the Body of Christ than a part of the Bride of Christ, even though I know they are the same thing.
There are some cultural differences between our age and that of the first century. We have engagements. When Jesus walked the earth there were betrothals. A betrothal was a legally binding commitment, and while a man and woman were to remain sexually pure until their wedding night, by that time the course of their lives together was largely defined.
It is sensible to assume Jesus’ betrothal to His Bride was made official on the Day of Pentecost, when the church was born. This makes the spiritual betrothal between Christ and His people equivalent to the church age, which is scheduled to culminate in Christ’s return and the marriage feast of the Lamb.
While this timeline seems logical in the parallel between human marriage and the relationship of Christ and His Bride, not everyone agrees. Some, with whom I disagree, have eschatological views that do not equate the Bride with the Christ’s church.
I move forward, fully confident that I am indeed a part of the beautiful Bride for whom Christ died. My reservations fade in light of the more profound aspects of the mystery. The practical working out of this picture has proven so relevant I cannot help but embrace it, even as I struggle to understand.