To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.”
- John 3:27-30
“Goodness and purity should never be traits that draw attention to themselves, but should simply be magnets that draw people to Jesus Christ. If my holiness is not drawing others to Him, it is not the right kind of holiness; it is only an influence which awakens undue emotions and evil desires in people and diverts them from heading in the right direction. A person who is a beautiful saint can be a hindrance in leading people to the Lord by presenting only what Christ has done for him, instead of presenting Jesus Christ Himself. Others will be left with this thought— ‘What a fine person that man is!’ That is not being a true ‘friend of the bridegroom’ — I am increasing all the time; He is not.”
- Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
On the day of a modern wedding, everyone has their gaze transfixed on the bride. Maybe the groom’s friends are gazing upon him – to see if he is a flight risk. But seriously, the bride and groom are the focus, not the others around them.
For our wedding, we had a few stories. Possibly the funniest was when our ring bearer, a little boy that my wife babysat, played with the pillow that contained the rings. He would bounce the rings on the pillow and each time the cords holding the rings would get looser and looser. The rings were destined to fall off and get lost. That’s when the rings were retied so that they would never fall off.
Later, when the pillow was handed to the best man, the best man could not untie the knots. My brother was officiating. He pulled up his robe and took a pocket knife out of his pants pocket and cut the rings off the pillow. The people in attendance were confused, but the story spread during the reception so that everyone had a good laugh.
It was an opportunity for others to be the center of attention, but since no one outside the wedding party knew what was happening, it never became a scene stealer.
The Scripture here uses the wedding analogy. The friend of the bridegroom assists the bridegroom as an invisible servant, so that all the focus is on the groom. This analogy is told by John the Baptist, but Jesus uses the wedding analogy Himself. The church will be His bride. One of His last parables is about the virgins waiting for the bridegroom, some wise and some foolish. Jesus’ first recorded miracle was at a wedding.
When I went on a mission trip to help those impacted by Hurricane Katrina, there was a commissioning ceremony. I did not want to be part of the ceremony. I felt I was taking attention away from the bridegroom in doing so. Of course, on our return, we had to give talks with the church’s youth groups about what we had experienced. In my talk, I talked about what I had learned about how Jesus had impacted people’s lives and not about what I had done while there.
When I do some comedy on stage, I can ham it up. I can steal the scene. Our class during my senior year of high school put on the musical, Li’l Abner. I had continued singing when the accompanist got lost at a coda during the auditions. The director and her staff offered me any part in the play as a result of my audition. I chose Marryin’ Sam. They asked why I did not want to play the lead, Abner. I said that Marryin’ Sam has the best lines. Yes, I know how to steal the spotlight. And to think, we performed without microphones.
But when we are doing good works, the work is not good at all if we become the focus. Jesus needs to be the focus, and we need to blend into the crowd. Others will try to draw us to the center of the stage, but we must make it clear why we are there and who is providing the strength to do the work. The focus must never be on us. It must never be an advertisement for the church, beyond the printing on the side of the church van. The focus is Jesus Christ.
We must become less, and Him more.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.