The Bible makes it clear that we, as believers, are the bride of Christ, and Jesus is our Bridegroom. This is what I (and others) refer to in shorthand as The Bridal Paradigm. The word paradigm is significant, because this truth has the power to completely transform the way you think about and live out your marriage.
Even before he instituted the first marriage in the Garden of Eden, God knew he would send Jesus into the world to win for himself a bride. The story of the Bible is a love story that begins and ends with a wedding. It’s a story of a loving God in pursuit of an eternal bride.
But the notion that Jesus is our Bridegroom and we his bride is much more than a simple metaphor. It’s a vastly rich and beautiful way of understanding God’s heart for marriage.
This is a “profound mystery,” as the Apostle Paul refers to it in his famous chapter on marriage:
‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.
It’s mysterious and wonderful, yet the intention couldn’t be more clear. A husband and wife are joined together in the same way we are joined to Christ.
It’s All About Intimacy
Biblical instructions on marriage describe roles for husbands and wives that create a useful general framework that I describe as an “ordered partnership.” The sad truth is that many people get hung up on the words used in Ephesians 5 (such as “head” and “submit”) without bothering to understand their real meaning in light of the bridal paradigm. To do so is a huge mistake!
Many are quick to jump to (wrong) conclusions that completely miss the main point of the passage: intimacy.
The main message of the bridal paradigm is intimacy. We miss this point because we miss the parallel point of Jesus’ mission on earth. Contrary to many well-intentioned teachings, Jesus purpose for coming to earth was not to forgive our sins. Jesus came so that we could live in intimacy with him, both now and forever. Sin was the problem that blocked our way to God. Grace through Christ was the solution. But an intimate relationship with God was the ultimate goal.
In the same way, I believe that intimacy is the main goal of every marriage. And when I say intimacy, I’m not using the word as a euphemism for sex. No, I mean intimacy in every form: physical, spiritual, emotional, financial. All of you. Everything. Your entire beings. Intimately one.
Fully, Completely One
Want to know an awesome secret? You and your spouse are one. It’s true.
How do I know? Because the covenant of marriage works the same as your covenant with Jesus. When you came to faith in him, you and he became one (1 Cor 6:17). In the same way, when you entered into marriage, you and your spouse became one. Oneness is a great mystery, as Paul states, but it’s undeniably true.
Yet oneness and intimacy are not the same things. Oneness is a state of being. Intimacy is a state of knowing. In order to have intimacy you have to be known. Intimacy reaches its pinnacle when we are fully known, even our warts and weaknesses, yet completely loved. That means loving each other without conditions, the way God loves us.
In a day of gender ambiguity and fluidity, the idea that men and women should have different roles in marriage is, to some, old-fashioned, even offensive. Contrary to the way many imagine it, however, the martial order I think the Bible describes has rather little to do with who is the boss, who makes all the decisions or some strict hierarchical structure.
The best short-hand description I’ve found for what the Bible says about the relationship between husbands and wives is an ordered partnership that is fully based on the Bridal Paradigm.
An ordered partnership in marriage is one in which husbands and wives have equal value and worth but differing roles, as best portrayed in the relationship between Christ and the church. He loves, leads and serves her. She loves, honors and submits to him.
Let me be emphatically clear on this point, this is not about who is more and who is less, who is better or worse, smarter or dumber, stronger or weaker. It’s about having a God-ordained order in place in your marriage that reflects His design, as portrayed for us in the bridal paradigm.
Read more in An Ordered Partnership.
My original blog, which I began back in 2010, was titled “Journey to Surrender.” When I moved here to Heaven Made Marriage, I changed the name, but the heart behind the blog remains. Surrender is an essential part of a Heaven Made Marriage.
A bridal paradigm marriage is not about control but about surrender, which is the opposite of control. The journey into deeper intimacy is a journey of mutual surrender.
Don’t let the word surrender confuse you. The kind of surrender we speak of in a bridal paradigm marriage has nothing to do with loss, giving up, weakness or defeat. Rather, surrender in marriage is about the surrender of your “selfs.” It means letting go of self-centered living in exchange for other-centered living. It means putting away selfishness and replacing it with serving. It means boldly stepping out of self-protection and into opening up to let the real you be seen.
The word surrender comes from two old French words. The first part is from “sur,” which means over and above (think surtax or surcharge). The second part is from “render,” which means to give over. Put these together and you discover what a surrendered marriage is really all about: going above in beyond in giving over your genuine self to your spouse. Rather than losing yourself, it’s about bringing the fullness of who you are to your marriage for the benefit of your spouse and your relationship.
First and foremost comes vertical surrender, which happens when you and your spouse each give yourselves fully over to Jesus, allowing him to be Lord over your life and seeking the destiny he has for you.
Second comes the surrender of your pre-existing marriage paradigms, allowing them to be replaced with the bridal paradigm based on God’s plan for your marriage. I understand it can be a challenge to turn from the secular wisdom of me-centered marriage, where rights trump relationship and where equality and fairness are the yardsticks by which marriage success is measured.
Finally, there is the surrender of yourself to your spouse. Such surrender entails valuing freedom over control, transparency over power, and relationship over rights. It means out-giving and out-loving each other with selflessness and grace.
Surrender in marriage is a radical notion, even to many Christians. But it is the core of a Bridal Paradigm marriage. It is the core of a marriage that is intimate, passionate and free.
For more, read What is A Surrendered Marriage from my “What I Believe” series.
The Bottom Line
Paul prefaces his instructions on marriage in Ephesians 5 by encouraging us to examine how Christ loves us:
Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.
Ephesians 5:1-2 (The Message)
The Bridal Paradigm is a call to “love like that” as a fundamental way of doing marriage.
The Bridal Paradigm has the power to transform your marriage and to help you attain the kind of intimacy, passion and love you only dream of. That’s a big promise, but one I believe in.
Here’s the bottom line. If you don’t remember anything else from this Bridal Paradigm introduction, remember this:
The beauty and power of the Bridal Paradigm lies in what it compels you to give rather than in what it permits you to demand.