In our culture marriage seems, at best, to be considered an agreement of convenience and passion tied to the happiness and satisfaction of one or both of the parties. At worst, marriage seems to be an archaic social construct that needs to be abolished altogether. All around us we see the attempts of the world to “deconstruct” and delegitimize something that God Himself instituted as the foundation of the family and a beautiful picture of intimacy and love. Christian marriage should shine as a beautiful light in the darkness of the age that God has placed us in. But how?
We first have to recognize our marriages are not about us. Our marriages are about Christ and His eternal redemptive plan!
In Ephesians 5 Paul writes on how to love as Christ loves. He begins by speaking to the church as a whole, then husbands and wives, children and finally parents. He challenges wives to submit to the leadership of their husband as their husbands submit to Christ. He challenges husbands to “love as Christ loves the church, giving himself up for her”, to care about the spiritual health of their wives, to love her as his own flesh and care for her and cherish her as a gift. He calls all of this a mystery and says it points us to something greater - Christ! A marriage is meant to be a beautiful picture of Christ and his relationship with his people.
Paul puts the marriage relationship in light of the gospel and shows us that our marriage isn’t primarily about us. Christian marriage is intended to show the character of God to a broken world. Christian marriage puts Christ on display.
The world and our own sinful hearts tell us that our marriage is about our personal fulfillment, our happiness, our comfort, our pleasure, and our satisfaction. We can become more concerned about what our spouse contributes to us rather than how we can serve them.
The gospel comes in and tells us that our spouse is not our savior, but Christ is. The gospel tells us that our spouse will not fulfill us but Christ will. The gospel tells us that our comfort, our peace, and our eternal satisfaction will not come through our spouse… It will only come through Christ.
Ultimately, our spouse is not intended to be the object of our worship - God is.
We need our marriages to point to something greater than the sinful individuals that fill them.
This is where we can get into a little bit of trouble. Most of our marital conflict comes from misplaced worship. We effectively make our spouse into an idol when we elevate them above all things. We take a good thing that God has given for our joy and flourishing and make it the ultimate prize. We begin to worship the gift and not the gift-giver. But we all know that our spouse is not perfect and could never live up to our expectations of them.
This plays itself out in how we respond to the actions of our spouse. If my spouse is not living up to my expectations of them, if they are not fulfilling me in the ways that I see fit, or if they disappoint me... what is my response? Do I harbor resentment or withhold forgiveness? Do I blow up in anger? Do I use sex as a weapon against them? Or on the other hand, do I think that they can do no wrong and I overlook sin, protect them, shield them from consequences? When we make our spouse the object of our worship we will be left empty and resentful.
So how do we apply the good news of the gospel to our tendency to worship our spouse? If we see our spouse as a child of God and an image bearer of the creator, instead of an object of our pleasure, how will it change our response to the conflicts and challenges we encounter?
We respond with patience, forgiveness, sacrificial love, charity, compassion and gentleness. We don’t gloss over sin, but we remember that Christ came to pay for it!
This is hard! But the beautiful thing is, because of the Spirit’s indwelling work in us, we actually can respond in a way that pleases God.
So, how do we move forward and grow in our marriages? How do we become the spouse that God intended for us to be?
Speaking primarily to the husbands here, The call to being a godly husband begins with being a godly man. Lead your family well by following Christ well.
Make personal worship a priority in your life, live a consistent life of quick repentance, confess sin to your brothers and your wife, seek wisdom in understanding, dive into God’s word and let it inform your prayer life. Abide in Christ!
Let the overflow of your relationship with Christ be the fuel for the love of your spouse. You have been forgiven, therefore forgive. You have been shown grace, therefore show grace. You have been shown kindness, therefore show kindness.
My prayer is that people will see the marriages in our church and see the gospel lived out in such a way they would give praise to the Creator who deserves all the glory.