As for Elton and Louise: they have been planning this for months. They have gone to wedding preparation classes. They have had to go to court and plead their case, because they didn’t know about having to give three months notice (that is partly my fault). They have thought about dresses, the cake, the flowers, the brides-maids, the grooms-men, the food (I can’t wait), and the photographer. But now the day is here, the doors are locked, and there is no turning back.
Not that Elton wants to run. Did you see the look on his face when Louise arrived? Have you seen the smiles the two of them have been sharing? I want you to observe Elton today. Watch him as he leaves this room with Louise on his arm—looking like that the cat that got the cream. See him as he glances at her during the day. Listen as he talks about her. For he is providing us with an object lesson that of the sort of love that God invites each of us to experience in him.
You see the prophet Isaiah wrote to God’s people saying:
. . . as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,
so will your God rejoice over you. (Isaiah 62:5)
So Elton gives us a picture of the sort of love God wants us to experience in him, but Elton’s love for Louise still remains a pale imitation of God’s love for his people.
I don’t know how Elton and Louise got together. I am sure that they told me but I have forgotten. But it probably went something like this: Elton sees Louise and thinks ‘Umm, she’s not so bad looking.’ He get’s to know her and finds that her personality matches her good looks. He spends time with her and he enjoys her friendship. So he says, ‘this girl is worth spending the rest of my life with.’ Elton’s love for Louise may be the real deal but God’s love goes way beyond it. Let me explain!
God looks at us and sees that we are in rebellion against his rule; he looks at our hearts and sees that we are self-centred and self-obsessed; he looks at our lives and sees all sorts of moral failings. Spiritually speaking it is as if we have the most horrendous breath, a huge bulbous nose, greasy skin and the personality of Gengus-Khan. Yet God declares ‘I love him’ ‘I love her’. Elton loves Louise because she is lovely but God offers to love us despite our many blemishes.
He loves us so much that he sends his one and only Son into our world, and humanity puts that Son on a cross and kills him; he loves people so much that he planned for Jesus to go to that cross so that he could take the punishment our guilt deserves; and, he loves us so much that when any person turns back to him and cries, ‘have mercy on me, a sinner’, there is a party in heaven. It is all summed up in the most famous verse in the Bible: ‘For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son that who ever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’
Finally, did you see that Elton and Louise put a verse Bible verse on their wedding invitations? (That is the sort of corny thing born again Christians do). The verse reads, ‘we love because he first loved us.’ God’s love inspires them. God’s love is the sort of love that will keep their marriage alive even if looks fade and they learn what it means to love some in sickness as well as health, for poorer as well as richer, and for worse as well as for better.
So watch Elton today. Watch him as he leaves this room like the cat that got the cream and remember that, as a groom dotting over his bride, he is giving us a picture of the love God wants us to experience in him. But remember that God’s love surpasses that of Elton for Louise. Elton loves Louise because she is lovely; God loves us because he is love.
The chapter of the Bible contains a wedding invitation. ‘The Spirit and the Bride say come. And let him who hears say come; and let anyone who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.’ I hope that you will give that invitation serious consideration and so not miss out on the party!