Tragically Beautiful Love (Chris Marley)
The narrative of creation and fall in Genesis, depending on with whom you speak, is beloved or hated, mysterious, absolute or debatable, unquestionable, or a mixture thereof. Unfortunately in the fervor of the issues, especially regarding the historicity of the account, the bridal analogy is often overlooked. My purpose in previous articles (such as Bridefall, where I addressed the sin and the fig leaves) has been to draw these elements to light. In Genesis 3, the Bride falls. Eve falls, but the church falls too. In a sense, though, it is in the fall and promise of redemption that the Bride is made.
The church’s identity is found in Christ and in Christ alone. She is nothing without Christ and him crucified. It is his shed blood that animates her. She cannot be except through him. There is no bride without shed blood. The church is conceived in the first gospel, Genesis 3:16, the protoevangelium. It is in the 21st verse of the same chapter wherein they are clothed by God in the skins of animals. This is not just to show that God chose leather pants over organic fig leaves for clothing his people, but to show the need for the blood of atonement. From her birth she is clothed through sacrifice, a promise by God who will not repent of his decision. She has to be clothed in the “garments of salvation…as a bride adorns herself with jewels” (Isa. 61:10; cf. Rev. 3:18).
If you are a husband or wife, you have an abundance of beautiful opportunities in tribulation and trial to show love for your spouse. Allow me to tell you a story.
In April of 2010, my wife and I found out that we were going to have a child. It was three days before we were scheduled to leave for a three week vacation, two weeks of which would be spent overseas in Ireland. We were absolutely overjoyed and terrified, as most expectant parents are when they get the news. When we had flown to Boston, there was a misunderstanding with the tickets, and we ran in panic all the way to our terminal only to find out we had an hour yet to wait. I was trying to find food, but Leah was just starting to get morning sickness and nothing sounded edible to her. When I finally came back with food to the gate, I found her finishing up a phone call to her sister with tears streaming down her face. She was exhausted and hormonal. She looked up at me and said, “You can just leave me here if you want.” I laughed, and hugged her, because I realized, by God’s grace, that He had given me a wonderful opportunity to show Christ’s love to my wife. We did make it, by the way, only to be stranded an extra week by a volcanic eruption, but that’s another story altogether.
There are a myriad of other examples I could give, and I am sure that there are even more that my wife could give of me, but my point is certainly not to show how wonderful a husband I am (because I am not) or how daunting the trials are that I have been through (because they are not). What is evidenced, here, is that what we experience in a miniscule way relates to us the reality of the majesty of Christ’s love for his church, as only the God who is “most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth…” (Second London Baptist Confession, 2:1) come in the flesh could love.
When we examine the church, we see that she exists only through the sacrifice of Christ on her behalf. This is orchestrated in God’s perfect wisdom to show Christ’s perfect love. By Christ loving a fallen bride instead of a perfect one, a more beautiful love is shown. If my wife were perfect and without sin, never offending or making a mistake, my love for her would be untested and simple. I may love her just as much, but that love would not be displayed to the same degree. In the same way that a light is most evident in darkness, love is most beautiful in a fallen world. The flame of the candle is easily forgotten in broad daylight, but for the person groping through darkness, the candle light is not only obvious, but precious.
Likewise, as God is love and unchanging, the fall did not cause God to love His creation. Yet, because of the fall, we are able to really see it. The beauty, the depth, the magnificence of God’s love is shown because he loves his church after the fall.
Chris J. Marley is the Senior Pastor of Miller Valley Baptist Church in Prescott, Arizona. He holds an M. Div. from Westminster Seminary California (2009).