Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Nuptial Gospel

By now, the term "social gospel" is pretty widely known, but what's the nuptial gospel? I'll tell you... it's a made up term I just invented. Or at least I think I did. Although I haven't done my due diligence in a trademark and patent search, it was new to me when I thought of it last night.

The social gospel, stripped of it's theologically debatable earmarks and connotations, is at it's heart the principal that THE gospel can (or should, depending on who you ask) be conveyed in the genuine care for those socially needy. This is a Biblical concept, no doubt. "Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it" (James 2:15-16)?

In an opportunity that the Spirit created and led me through last night, I found a similar connection between the familiar (felt needs) and the unfamiliar (the gospel to non-believers) that proved very useful. What can a man understand and relate to the love of God if he is not "socially needy." In this case, the married man struggling in his marriage could relate to the covenant love that God has modeled for us.

"Why does she need to deserve your love?" I asked. He didn't quite know what to say. The answer was exceedingly obvious to him, doesn't everyone need to work to deserve love? I explained that her attitude and actions toward him would be more positively effected if he focused less on correcting her (or "parenting" her as he put it) but simply on loving her unconditionally and caring for her. From a psychological standpoint, it made sense to him how this was sound advice.

With that established, I decided now would be a good time to break all social etiquette and bring God up in the midst of a perfectly good normal conversation. "You know, that's what God does for us," I said. His blank stare let me know I had the opportunity to say more. I explained how marriage isn't just something we invented. If we (men, that is) made it up in our own wisdom, we wouldn't have chosen to be monogamous nor would we reserve sex for marriage. To this observation, I received a glowing agreement and buy in... the Spirit was moving.

"So, who made it up? God did. And He told us that, when it's working well, it mimics the way He loves us." Now we're getting somewhere. I was able to make the correlation between his appropriate love for his wife and God's love for his people. "It's nice for me to know that when I screw up, divorce isn't an option for God. That's why it's not an option for me and my wife."

Did He get on his knees and convert? No. But for the first time in a long time I was able to engage this friend in an overt and open discussion about God, His Son, and man that didn't end in a scoff at my faith or an awkward lack of response. So, am I ready to formulate the "nuptial gospel" as a church-wide strategy for conversions? No. But I did find it's effectiveness very moving, and I was grateful to God for giving me the words. I share it today because perhaps your looking for that open door with someone you know. Are they married? Give it a shot.

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