February is here. Love is in the air, perhaps. But today’s love song is old, yet unique…romantic, yet tragic. It is the age old story of boy meets girl, girl plays hard to get, cheats often, and cruelly disregards the treasure of the boy’s love for her. Boy dies in order to prove love to girl. Girl appreciates the gesture, but still wanders into other relationships and lesser pleasures, despite the boy’s epic commitment to her and her alone. And in the end…the boy sets the girl free. Free from a life of shame and swine, so that boy and girl can be together forever.
Wait, that doesn’t sound like a normal, healthy love relationship to you either? Nevertheless, it is a rough summary of God’s relationship with the Church. God always intended to have a sacred place on Earth that we could come and meet with Him. He never had to give this kind of access to us, but He graciously offers Himself to us in so many ways. Unfortunately, we have continually and cyclically complained about, ignored, scorned and desecrated these meeting places.
Derek Webb is a pioneer among Christian artists today. He continues his involvement in the popular band, Caedmon’s Call. His work with Noisetrade is also worth mentioning, as it serves as one of the best ways for artists and listeners to connect directly and appropriately. He has been writing music for a long time, including solo projects for the last decade. Ten years ago, he took on a project that brought a lot of attention and criticism. A concept album about the state of the Church in America would definitely be a difficult and highly scrutinized ordeal today. However, it was a prophetic piece and we are in greater need of its message than even last decade. “She Must and Shall Go Free” includes a song called, “Lover” which is composed from the perspective of Christ speaking to His bride, the Church.
As you listen to the lyrics, consider how reflecting on Jesus’ attitude towards the Temple in the Gospels compares to how He might speak to us, the Church, today:
Like a man comes to an altar, I came into this town
With the world upon my shoulders
And promises passed down
And I went into the water
My father, he was pleased
I built it and I’ll tear it down so you will be set free
I found thieves and salesmen living in my father’s house
I know how they got in here and I know how to get ‘em out
I’m turning this place over from floor to balcony
And then just like these doves and sheep oh you will be set free
I’ve always been a lover from before I drew a breath
Some things I loved easy and some I’ll loved to death
Because love’s no politician, it listens carefully
So of those who come I can’t lose one, so you will be set free
But go on and take my picture, go on and make me up
I’ll still be your defender and you’ll be my missing son
And I’ll send out an army just to bring you back to me
‘Cause regardless of your brother’s lies oh you will be set free
I am my beloved’s and my beloved’s mine
So you bring all your history and I’ll bring the bread and wine
And we’ll have us a party where all drinks are on me
Then as surely as the rising sun oh you will be set free
Ever since the turn of the twenty-first century, America has come down hard on evangelical Christianity. The younger generations are leaving the church in droves and society isn’t really respecting the Church as a meaningful and positive element of our world. We only have ourselves to blame for these trends. We’ve lost our way, once again, and the world is tired of us.
Now, there is no need to push the panic button yet. There are bright spots here and there and God is certainly active and involved in His bride today. But, in general, we are failing…we need to return to our First Love and remember the joy of our salvation that still stands strong as the cornerstone of the Church. We exist to be a lighthouse to a dying world. Jesus didn’t just die for you and me. He died and rose again so that we would believe and become His ambassadors. There is an “us” that we need to submit to and sacrifice for more than we have been willing to embrace as of late.
God knows that we need this reminder often. Even before He sent His Son, He sent prophets to help us with remembering our place and calling. One such prophet was Hosea. Listen: Hosea 2:14-23:
“But then I will win her back once again.
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her there.
I will return her vineyards to her
and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope…
When that day comes,” says the Lord,
“you will call me ‘my husband’
instead of ‘my master…’
I will make you my wife forever,
showing you righteousness and justice,
unfailing love and compassion. I will be faithful to you and make you mine,
and you will finally know me as the Lord…
I will show love
to those I called ‘Not loved.’
And to those I called ‘Not my people,’
I will say, ‘Now you are my people.’
And they will reply, ‘You are our God!’”
God loves His people! When we actively look to His love together as one, the world will take notice once again (but, in a good way). When we let God’s love lead us from the inside out, society will favor us once again. When we humble ourselves, put the Gospel first in our Churches, the unchurched will want what we have. Jesus is the greatest lover of all and we are His bride. May He make us worthy of this title and privilege, so that others can be set free, as well!