Alright, bear with me on this one… it’s a thought in motion.
I’ve been reading a lot of Karl Barth lately. Reformed folks… don’t panic! I still believe that the Bible is the Word of God, I’m not a universalist, and it was originally Karl Barth who lead me to Reformed theology, I sincerely doubt that it will be Karl Barth who leads me away from it. Why reading Barth has led me to this post should become clear in a bit.
One bit of advice that I used to give my friends before they got married was this: Don’t lose your individual identity, just because you are getting married does not mean that THAT is your identity. Now that I’m married… I realize how stupid that advice was. Not only from just a practical perspective, but also from a biblical perspective.
Paul teaches us in Ephesians that a Husband should love his Wife the way that Christ loves his Church. That is, that he chose her, pursues her, calls her, gives himself for her. However, there is something that we miss about this reality that Karl Barth helped me to see.
When the Persons of the Trinity, in eternity past, made the decision (whatever it means for a being of pure actuality to make a decision) to be a God who has a people, and to call to Himself a people who have a God, he decided to eternally associate himself with his covenant partner (the Church). In many ways, God has decided to locate his identity IN the Church. Now, many people (particularly my Reformed brothers and sisters) may look at this and think it is extra-Biblical sophistry… however, consider the first name given to Messiah. Emmanuel. God with us. Jesus Christ, in his incarnation, eternally became God with us… and in that moment he eternally rejected the idea of being God without us.
Likewise, when I said “I will” to my bride on September 15th, 2012 I made the decision to be Tony with Lee… which means that until death (and if you ask me… even after death) I have decided never again to be Tony without Lee. She is now a fundamental part of my identity.
I used to think that this loss of individualistic identity in marriage was something to be avoided… but I have learned in the last month that this is not only something to be embraced and pursued… it was part of God’s original intention for marriage and DEEPLY reflects who he is. That is, he is God with us and never again will he ever be God without us. My identity IS in Christ… but Christ’s identity is inexorably and intimately tied to the fact that he is the Bridegroom of the Bride. That is to say that My identity in Christ is my identity as a husband, because it is only as a husband that I can reflect the fact that Christ’s identity is also that of a husband.