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Thoughts on Church, part 5

February 5, 2008

A couple of posts ago, I made the analogy that a Christian’s relationship to Christ is like a marriage – the symbols of the relationship actually fortify the relationship. Using this marriage analogy, I want to compare and contrast the typical individualistic view of Christianity with what I believe to be the biblical view.

First, I think its important to look at the “defining moment.” Obviously for a marriage that would be the wedding. This is the ceremony where two are declared one. Where a Mr. and a Miss become Mr. and Mrs. But what is the defining moment of our relationship to Christ. Many would say its our conversion experience… but I think this is wrong. Our “conversion experience” is too subjective… it’s like saying a marriage began “when I first saw her face…. ahhh.” Besides, what is a conversion experience anyways? And for that matter, which one (I know I’ve had a few in my life)? No, the Bible teaches us to look to a particular objective event for our identity. Just as a wedding gives you you’re husband/wife identity, baptism gives you your Christian identity.

But this is not it. While baptism is the moment/ceremony that we are to look back upon for our identity in Christ, it is also true that this would mean nothing if we weren’t united to Christ in our daily lives. In other words, a marriage has meaning because of a wedding ceremony, but also because a husband and wife form a relationship… a covenant. It could hardly be called a marriage if they never saw each other, talked to each other, touched each other, or listened to each other. The actual covenant relationship is what defines the marriage. The daily symbolic acts that strengthen the relationship. It’s the same way in our relationship with Christ. Our baptism into Christ is only part of it. We have the name “Christian,” but it wouldn’t mean much if the relationship wasn’t cultivated on a regular basis. But what does this look like?

In a marriage the symbols are pretty similar, although God gives us a lot of freedom to be creative with these symbols. For instance, kissing is a symbol. But it may be a long passionate kiss after a romantic dinner, or it may be a quick peck on the cheek before leaving for work. Another symbol is a wedding band. As any guy can attest to, you can go crazy trying to pick out the right color, clarity, and cut for the perfect ring. But there are boundaries. Symbolically, the ring goes on the ring finger of the left hand. And kissing another woman does not strengthen your marriage. OK, so maybe my analogies are starting to break down at this point… but you get the idea. The point is that there are designated symbols in our Christian life – with room for creativity, but with definite boundaries.

As far as Christianity goes, though, it seems as if the emphasis has been on the creative side with the boundaries becoming neglected. I think this is due to the focus on individualism that I spoke of earlier. Think about it – if entrance into a relationship with Christ is deemed to be a “conversion experience,” and the cultivation of this relationship is seen as an individual journey, then it’s only natural that the church has transformed into a service of man-made symbols: bowing our heads and closing our eyes in solemn prayer, emotionally driven pop-songs, motivational speeches, walking an aisle, saying a sinner’s prayer, etc… while at the same time neglecting the biblically ordained symbols of our relationship with Christ: confession, baptism, communion, preaching of the Word, reading of Scriptures, singing of the Psalms, uplifting corporate prayer, etc.

So now the question might be “where in the Bible are these biblically ordained symbols of worship” and “what would a church service look like with these symbols?” Well hopefully I’ll get around to answering that in my next post, but until then I would direct you to this post.

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 7, 2008 12:46 pm

    Good post! I’m doing a similar series on my blog, though its a bit different. I haven’t seen you in a couple weeks or so, hope everything is going great. I’m sure you’ve been busy – I know you said something to the effect you may be moving due to work. Anyway, good posting!


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