I’ve attended, been in, and officiated a few weddings throughout my life. I’ve been in most every position imaginable in the church or hall on those days. I’ve been the preacher, the groom, a groomsman, an usher, the soundman, a musician, the singer, and a spectator. The one thing I’ve never been at a wedding is the best man. Now there is obviously some room to argue that I will never be the best man because I am not the best man, but that is beside the point.
As I have been scrutinizing the first four chapters of John’s Gospel over the last week, I have been repeatedly confronted with the testimony of John the Baptist. In particular his talk about increasing and decreasing has been important in my thoughts and motivations of late. But it is the verse immediately preceding John’s “He must increase, I must decrease” declaration that helps me to frame this idea.
The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.
There are several things that make for a good wedding. Cute kids, beautiful brides, well chosen vows, and maybe ranking near the top of the list is a best man who doesn’t try to steal the bride during the ceremony.
John the Baptist’s declaration of humility was not based on a white-knuckled, teeth-gritted, angry-eyed pursuit of holiness. To the contrary, John’s humility seems to be motivated by joy, joy that wholeheartedly understands that this wedding isn’t all about him. He may be the guy who gets to hold the ring, he may have had a hand in decorating the car, he may be taking the tuxedos back to the rental shop when everything is said and done, but he is under no delusion that this day is about him. He’s not losing any sleep because some of his followers are leaving to travel with Jesus. He isn’t upset that more people are going to Jesus’ camp to be baptized. No, John is satisfied because he accepts the event for what it is.
Friends, we will find that our lives run much smoother when we stop trying to be the groom in every situation. We will find that when we accept that life is about God, His glory, His honor, His mission, and His kingdom not only do we not feel left out, but we actually get to enjoy the Christian life. If we are convinced that everything must orbit around our gifts, talents, or eclectic idiosyncrasies then we will find that our existence becomes stretched and worn very quickly.
I would suggest that John doesn’t say, “He must increase, I must decrease” with a sad or angst-filled voice, but he says it with a smile on his lips and a sigh of relief in his chest. If I was translating this verse for a modern day drama I would probably say it like this, “finally, i get to stop being the center of the questions, I get to step out of the spotlight, and I get to enjoy watching the real star of of the show change the world for the better.” That is the relief that Jesus offers in another Gospel when He says, “Come to me all you who are tired and worn out, I will give you rest.”
Try not to steal the bride. It’s bad for you and bad for everyone, and perhaps most of all the bride, because you aren’t the one she chose in the first place.