At the moment in life when a boy feels himself becoming a man I began to ask some earnest questions. Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? I sought answers in science class, in conversations with family and friends and by defiantly disobeying my father's wishes that I not waste time reading Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. I began to explore other areas of thought and belief outside of the Christian worldview my parents had taught me.
I left church services believing that one’s spirituality was based on external behavior. I knew a lot of Protestants and Catholics who acted Christian on Sunday but lived like the devil all week. My Catholic friends rationalized their sinful behavior by going to Mass and confessing sins once a week. My Christian friends would say a quick Saturday night prayer in preparation for church on Sunday. I was disillusioned and disappointed. I saw their hypocrisy and I despised in others what I knew was rooted in my own soul.
Bitterness began to eat away at me. My parents worried much about the direction I was taking and so they sent me away to a Christian boarding school. For the first time in my life I saw young people who really seemed to live an authentic Christian life. I was skeptical. I studied their lives and searched for flaws. They didn’t seem to struggle with anger like I did. They were not eaten up with bitterness like I was. They had a peace that surpassed my understanding. I learned that God loved me, that he could forgive me and that living a Christian life was possible through the grace of God. I began a journey, cover to cover, through the Bible as a high school junior.
God came to life through the scriptures. I was envious of others around me who seemed to be living on a different plane of reality than I was living. I went to chapel services. I attended revival services. I realized that my own moral failures and my own selfishness was what had separated me from Christ.
I learned that I could be restored. My first year in that boarding school was pretty traumatic. I struggled with my belief. I tried to find fault in the professing Christians around me. I thought I had to understand and comprehend salvation before I experienced it. I finally came to realize that I could never really know Christ if I failed to repent of my sins.
I gave my heart to Christ. I said 'yes' to God. He invited me into relationship with him. Shortly after he called me to teach and preach the truth of God. I finally knew who I was, I knew why I was created, I knew where I was going. Unfortunately, I lost my way for awhile. I was Gomer in the book of Hosea. I sought out others lovers, other gods. I worshipped other idols. I was asking God for a divorce. I wanted to enjoy the pleasures of sin. Even though I turned my back, the Hound of Heaven followed after my fleeing soul like the dog pursues the rabbit. He would not cease seeking after me. His love never faltered. He refused to let me go. I sought divorce from God and he would have nothing of it. I turned back to Christ on the day I realized that in my deepest agony, in my darkest moment, that he still loved me.
The Persians tell the story of the wife of one of Cyrus’ generals. The general’s wife was accused and convicted of treason. The king sentenced her to death. When her husband comprehended the gravity of her situation he rushed into the throne room of the king and cried out in despair, “Oh Lord, take my life instead of hers. Let me die in her place.” The king felt compassion for them and said, “A love like this must not be spoiled by death.” He set the woman free. As they walked briskly away from the throne room the husband asked his wife, “Did you not see the compassion in the eyes of the king?” She replied to her husband, “I had no eyes for the king. I saw only the man who was willing to die in my place.”
Jesus is the groom who was not only willing to die but actually did die for the unfaithful bride.
Donald Gray Barnhouse wrote a book entitled God's Methods for Holy Living. In that book he tells a story about a young British aristocrat who married and then went off to fight in WWI. His bride wrote him a letter and apologized for not writing more often. She said she was extremely busy in a local hospital taking care of the wounded who had returned from war. The young man received some leave time and so he went home to surprise her. He went to the hospital where his young wife was supposedly working but she wasn't there. He checked her flat and she wasn't there either. Someone slipped up to him and said, "She will probably be at a tea dance at the Ritz today." The husband went there and found her with another man. He divorced her.
At the beginning of the same war, there was a young couple in love in the western part of the U.S. They had planned to marry and the young man was suddenly called off to war. On the day before he was to be shipped out the young woman said to him, "I know that it is not quite the date for our wedding, but you might be ordered overseas immediately; you might be killed, and I would much rather go through life bearing your name than go through life always explaining that the man I loved had been killed in the war. So let's be married now." They were married the next day and the husband was shipped out to France and the young bride sat lone in the little cottage that was to be their home.
She was very lonely, of course. Day after day she would write to him, she thought of him constantly and she sent him gifts. Months passed and on one particular day she was so lonely she sat some pillows by the fire place and spread her husband's letters in front of her and she began to read them. She began to cry. Suddenly, as she was weeping over the letters she heard a step on the front porch. The door opened and there was her husband. He had sent a telegram telling her that he was coming but the message was lost and he had arrived unexpectedly. She leapt to her feet and ran into his arms. All the months of waiting, all the moments of loneliness, all her pent up fears were released as she wept in his arms.
The groom is going to come for his bride. He seeks you even though he finds you flirting with the world? He loves you even though your heart has grown cold with hypocrisy and unfaithfulness. The love of this groom is too deep to fathom. He will never file for divorce. He loves you even in your adultery, even when you’ve given your heart to other gods, to your own idols. Jesus is searching for the unfaithful bride, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in…” (Rev. 3:20) Oh that you might know such love, such wondrous love!