Mercy for the Bride, from the Bride
While en route to a Living Waters Leadership gathering in Europe, I was moved deeply by God’s heart for His European bride. The church there has played such a foundational role in western culture; from her has come our art, our music, our philosophy, and our ethics. In spite of her many faults and divisions, she continues to bear fruit that remains. She is the apple of God’s eye.
I thought of our small band of wounded healers gathered in Holland from all over Europe—faithfully washing the feet of Jesus’ body in our groups. What a privilege to serve those who help prepare the bride for Christ’s return.
Before our gathering, I had a day in Amsterdam. As usual, the city’s native beauty was marred by all manner of false freedoms— legal drugs and prostitution, porn around every corner, gender-bending of every kind. My experience was thus mixed. On the one hand, I marveled at her charm and historic treasures; on the other, I was troubled and vaguely tempted by her idols.
God is faithful to me, an often troubled and tempted expression of His bride. While wandering the State Art Museum, I encountered ‘The Jewish Bride’, Rembrandt’s exquisite rendering of a bridegroom’s love for His bride. Its truth is immediate and profound: he looks on her with ardent respect; she responds with peaceful love to his hand on her heart.
While reflecting on the huge canvas, I felt several things at once: God’s steadfast seal of mercy upon me, my ardor for Annette, His passion and (to a lesser degree mine) for His bride in Europe. The painting conveyed an all-encompassing truth that centered me as I gazed upon it.
I walked back to the hotel and called Annette, so grateful to God and her for marital love—His, mine, ours. He loves us into expressions of human love that ennoble all involved; His faithfulness makes us faithful and true. In His steadfast love, we become good gifts to each other, in spite of our temptations.
It was a joy to serve the Europeans at our gathering. They were His beautiful bride, easy to love. They gave me back more than what was required of me.
Filled with fresh mercies, content in love, I boarded the plane for home. I sat next to a young man, a Spaniard, who had just spend the weekend partying in Amsterdam, and was heading to the USA for another week of partying. He was seductive, probably still high, and intent on more bodies and chemicals to come.
He made it clear who he was, a gay man, and his interest in me. I was interested in him too. I wanted him to know Jesus and the authentic life Jesus affords those who bow down before Him.
First, a boundary. We had 9 more hours together, sitting one-inch away from each other. I sleep further away from my wife! So I told him about her, my kids, and how Jesus changed my life from a wandering gay dude to one very content in marriage. He could not believe it! His father had been a Catholic and an adulterer, something that turned him off to ‘religion’ and toward whatever he wanted sexually.
He wryly told me that he slept with a lot of married men. And I told him how short-sighted and destructive that was to everyone: especially wives and kids like himself who unwittingly had been subject to infidelity. That shut down the conversation for a moment.
But I spoke it in love, and assured him that God was merciful and kind to all who call on His name. He admitted he prayed the rosary every time his plane took off and landed. I encouraged him to keep praying, only to do it always, calling out for mercy in every area of life, including the relational and sexual.
Another pregnant pause. In the end, he let me pray for him. I urged him onward in truth and mercy, assuring him that a real-live relationship with Jesus is so much better than another party.
I pray still that he will be among those who are ready to see Him face-to-face, the bride who has made herself ready, without spot or wrinkle.
‘As You have shown us mercy, O God, in the desert places of our lives, would You show mercy to the beleaguered state of marriage in the USA? As the Perry vs. Schw. case wends its way to the National Supreme Court, prepare for Yourself a victory. We shall render to Caesar what is Caesar’s but we shall prayerfully fight for what is Yours, O God. Prepare the hearts of each justice, especially Justice Anthony Kennedy, to uphold marriage according to Your merciful design. Remember mercy, O God.’
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