I've been giving a lot of thought to the idea of Church. What is it, why is it, whose is it. Growing up American, steeped in Western Christianity, it may be that what it has become or is, is not what it is meant to be. Or perhaps what it is is not how it began. Sound confusing? It depends on what your definition of is, is. ;)
I'm hoping to get into all facets of this subject; church history, scripture etc, but I think I want to begin with what I feel God has been talking to me about. To me, about me.
I keep having these dreams about a married man being attracted to me while his disgruntled wife watches. They have been highly unsettling, mostly because it has taken me a while to realize that again, dreams are often figurative, not necessarily literal. After the most recent one, the meaning burst on me all at once, while I was vacuuming.
The dream was talking about the New and Old Covenant. Galatians describes this relationship as follows:
For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. 23 But the son by the bondwoman [r]was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. 24 [s]This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children [t]who are to be slaves; [u]she is Hagar. 25 Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free; [v]she is our mother. 27 For it is written,
“Rejoice, barren woman who does not bear;
Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor;
For more numerous are the children of the desolate
Than of the one who has a husband.”28 And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. 30 But what does the Scripture say?
“Cast out the bondwoman and her son,
For the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman.”
31 So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, [w]but of the free woman.
What I was seeing in my dream was the relationship God had with the Old Covenant (slave woman) and the New Covenant (Free woman). On this side of the Cross, we are in the New Coveant, and we look back on the Old, as something entirely lesser. Hebrews says that the new covenant is nothing like the old.
7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. 8 For finding fault with them, He says,
“Behold, days are coming, says the Lord,
[f]When I will effect a new covenant
With the house of Israel and with the house of Judah;
9 Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers
On the day when I took them by the hand
To lead them out of the land of Egypt;
For they did not continue in My covenant,
And I did not care for them, says the Lord.
10 “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
After those days, says the Lord:
[g]I will put My laws into their minds,
And I will write them on their hearts.
And I will be their God,
And they shall be My people.
11 “And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen,
And everyone his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
For all will know Me,
From [h]the least to the greatest of them.
12 “For I will be merciful to their iniquities,
And I will remember their sins no more.”
13 [i]When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is [j]ready to disappear.
In my dream, I could feel the desire of the husband. And I could feel the desolation of the wife. At the end of the dream she tells me all the things she had done to get his attention and get him to marry her. Gifts, behavior, anything to win favor. And it wasn't enough to keep him.
This is a great picture of God's desire for His people. In fact, if you read Exodus, it is very apparent that the covenant God made with Moses was not the covenant God wanted to make. God wanted a nation of priests and kings. But because the people were afraid and asked for a go between, and laws just like other nations had, God created what we now know is a kinship covenant, instead of the superior grant covenant He had intended.
From the beginning, God had wanted relationship out of intimacy. He began in the Garden, walking with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. He pursued Abraham. All throughout scripture God pursues His people for friendship, for intimacy, and gets spurned. Like Michal watching David dance in his pj's, mankind gets embarrassed by passion.
Then Jesus. And all of His Passion is put on display. With an incredible act of love and selflessness He gives Himself away; to begin the departure of the old system of behaviors and punishments, blessings and cursings, and to usher in the Kingdom created from the relationship of God with His People. It is not a proper thing. It is not neat and tidy. The passion of Jesus and His pursuit of His Church is shameless and wild, gut wrenching and joyful.
And we now have today. We have taken this wild and free new Creation and have bound her with the old corsetry of the Old Covenant. That somehow we can win His favor with our services and fastings, proper language and separateness. This is not the plan, friends. This is not His plan. This is not what He paid for.
He spent Himself to set up a marriage with Himself and a Bride of His own stature. And we stay content with salvation and milk. Fortunately, God is not a pedophile, and He will wait as long as it takes for us to grow up. And growing up does not entail attending 'church' regularly. It means maturing to the heighth and depth and width of being a people filled with God. We do not go to a temple any more and tiptoe around the Holy of Holies. He is in us. On fire and waiting to get out and ravish us, and show the world what He is really like.