Don’t Be Gay for Jesus: Understand Why the “Bride-Groom” Metaphor Doesn’t Work for Individuals
Okay, men. We need to have a talk. Stop being gay.
We have already had to have a talk with the ladies, explaining to them that Jesus is not their husband. One would think that it’s the fairer sex who might mistake Jesus’ agape love for eros, but no. After all, the bride-groom analogy in Scripture would seem to come naturally to our sisters who are especially prone to Greco-Roman notions of love and who may or may not be overly enthralled with Fabio-covered novels and teen fiction books about sparkly vampires. It’s not right, but it’s understandable, that women are “led-on” by theoerotic versions of God.
Why men are beginning to act gay for Jesus, on the other hand, is harder to explain.
The above statement from Evangelicalism’s resident Marxist and Socinian, Tim Keller – and turned into a meme by The Gospel Coalition – exemplifies this creepiness. It is a creepiness that is altogether new to 21st Century Christian men. Referring to Jesus as your groom or referring to yourself as Jesus’ bride is not historic, but it is a recent phenomenon. Women have dabbled with theoerosism for several decades (best seen in Anne Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts and a bazillion Facebook memes about Jesus being their valentine), but for men, this is new.
Listen, Jesus loves you. But he doesn’t love you like that. And I’m sad that I have to say this to Tim Keller and R.C. Sproul Jr., because both men should clearly know better, but the Bride-Groom metaphor of Scripture does not apply to you individually.
So, I’ll explain from Scripture to women why Jesus is not your boyfriend, your husband, or your valentine and I’ll explain to men why you are not a bride or a wife, and why Jesus isn’t gay for you.
Most people with a normal sexual disposition oriented (A) to their own species and to other mere mortals and (B) to the opposite sex would not be inclined to take the Biblical Bride-Groom illustration too far. But for the rest of you, here’s the explanation.
Confusion arises from the Scripture’s repeated analogy of Israel and God the Father – and then the Church and God the Son – having a bride-groom relationship.
Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion (Jeremiah 3:14).
Elsewhere we see this in the Old Testament. It’s usually a working metaphor. Clearly, Hosea is an actual historical account meant to represent God’s relationship with Israel, who in Hosea’s narrative is a whorish wife (Hosea 2:2, 2:7, 2:16, 2:19-20). Levitical Law explains that God’s bride is to be a virgin, speaking of her spiritual purity (Leviticus 21:14). In Jeremiah 3:14, the prophet speaks of Israel being married to the Lord. In places like Ezekiel 16:59-60, the way God’s Covenant with Israel is described is very much similar to a marital Covenant. In Joel 1:8, Israel should mourn like a bride mourning for her bridegroom, who is the Lord. Isaiah says in Isaiah 50:1 that God is not “divorcing” Israel.
For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin (2 Corinthians 11:2).
Here, Paul is writing to the Corinthian Church, and refers to himself as betrothing the two together, considering how he helped to bring the Corinthians to faith. However, the Corinthian church has only one husband (Christ) and they are not presented as virgins (plural) but as a pure virgin (singular).
Every single other use of this bride-groom metaphor follows the same pattern presented by Paul and seen in the Old Testament; there is one groom and one bride (not multiple brides).
Matthew 9:15, Matthew 22:2, Matthew 25:1-13, Mark 2:19-20, Luke 5:34-35, John 3:29, Revelation 19:7-9, Revelation 21:2, and Revelation 22:17 all continue the bride-groom motif from the Old Testament. And with all of these passages, there is only one groom and only one bride. The last two verses mentioned – Revelation 21:2 and Revelation 22:17 – speak specifically of a singular bride.
One Bride, One Groom
The Covenant people of God – Israel of the Old Testament and the Church (serving as Spiritual Israel) in the New Testament – is the bride. They are the bride collectively. No one member of the bride is the bride. Whereas members of the Trinity are God both among one another and independently, it does not work that way with the church. You are not the church independently. The church is only the church collectively. It is, after all, a “called out assembly” or ἐκκλησία. You can be a part of the church, but you – independently – are not the church. Likewise, you are a part of the Bride of Christ, but you are not the Bride of Christ.
The simple principle is this: Jesus is not a polygamist. He doesn’t have one billion (or so) individual brides. He certainly doesn’t have brides who are dudes. He is not betrothed to Tim Keller or R.C. Sproul Jr. Christ Jesus is betrothed to the Covenant people of God, the Christian Church. He is – in his entirety – betrothed to the church – in her entirety.
If you are a man, Jesus is not your groom, and you are not his bride. If you are a woman, Jesus is not your groom, and you are not his bride. If you are speaking in an individual capacity whatsoever, no matter your gender, Jesus is not your groom. Only the church can say – collectively – that “Jesus is our groom.”
Don’t Be Gross
It makes us all look stupid when our Christian leaders refer to Jesus as their significant other. It makes us look gay when men do it, calling themselves a bride or calling Jesus their husband. In an age of “gender fluidity” and chaos in the realm of human sexuality, we really don’t have the luxury of being imprecise on this issue.
The church is spoken of as a “her.” Jesus loves his church, and is betrothed to her. He will come get her one day, and there will be a marriage feast. Ultimately, there will be a (non-sexual) physical consummation in which we are able to physically touch (non-sexually) our Savior. We should not abandon this God-given metaphor because the culture is prone to giggle at it out of their perversion. But for the love of all that is good and pure, don’t make it more complicated by using language toward God like a tween girl uses toward the Justin Bieber poster on her bedroom wall.
Don’t be weird. Knock it off. I can’t even believe this needs explanation, least of all to career theologians.