I've been thinking a lot about weddings lately, probably because I've been to three in the past three weeks. When I marry a couple, I lead them in reciting vows of unconditional love to one another. I begin with the groom, who says to his bride:
In the Name of God, I take you to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow.
Afterward, the bride says the same vow to her groom.
Every time I hear these vows, I think beyond the couple before me to Christ and the church, for the New Testament speaks of that relationship in terms of marriage. In Matthew, Jesus presents himself as a "bridegroom" (9.15; 25.1, 5, 6, and 10). In Ephesians 5.22-33, Paul models the relationship between husbands and wives on how Christ and the church treat one another. And in Revelation 19.9, John speaks of eternity as “the wedding supper of the Lamb.” The marriage between Christ and the church is a relationship of unconditional love. In the words of the wedding vows, it is “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health.” Or, to be more precise, the marriage of Christ and the church moves from worse to better, from poorer to richer, and from sickness to health. And of course, from Christ, there is no parting by death.
So, as I lead couples in the recitation of their vows, my mind is drawn to Christ and his unconditional love for us. In all of Scripture, there is no greater statement of that unconditional love than Romans 8.35-39:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The stresses of life test the authenticity of our vows. It is easy to be in love when you're experiencing "better." But "worse" proves your love for one another. As Paul teaches us in Romans 8.35-39, Christ still loves us in “worse” days. Nothing can separate us from his love!
In Romans 8.31-39, Paul asks five questions whose answers reveal the heart of Christianity. Let’s review the answers:
1. God is for you.
2. He graciously gives you all things with Christ.
3. He justifies you.
4. He hears Christ's intercession for you.
5. And in Christ, he loves you with an unconditional, inseparable love.
How are you responding to the heart of God today?
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