“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord the church: for we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”
For this cause…. We who are in Christ and are married are an object lesson. But I must ask: Are we teaching the right lesson? God ordained the institution of marriage to be a picture to the world of His great love for us, but more often than not, we present a picture of our love for God instead.
Marriage Often Paints a Picture of Our Love for God.
The typical Christian family may look quite good to the casual observer. They attend church regularly, eat together every evening, and they have family prayer time. Bedtime is peaceful, and they get along pretty well most of the time. Their children go to a good school, or perhaps they are taught at home. They learned early on to obey and respect their elders. The husband works diligently so he can pay the bills and even buy some “extras” now and then. He maintains the home, yard, and vehicles. The wife cleans the house, prepares delicious meals, takes care of the children, and keeps up with the laundry and ironing. Together they are a well oiled machine—but there is little to no intimacy. The things they do for each other are motivated by obligation or perhaps habit, but not by love. They have each gotten so caught up in their own interests that they hardly know each other anymore. They live under the same roof and sleep under the same sheets, but they barely rub shoulders anymore. They are keeping up appearances, and that is all. When she has a problem, she knows she ought to go to him for help, but she doesn’t because she is unsure of how he will react. So she turns instead to her friends. He does the same thing. Communication falters and trust disintegrates.
All too often our relationship with Christ looks just like that. We go to church, we sing, we give, and sometimes we minister in more overt ways as well. But after a while, if the love relationship with Christ is not nurtured, then the ministry becomes a chore. Problems arise and we take them to our friends instead of the Lord because we don’t quite know what to say to Him anymore.
If this is where you are, the first thing to do is return to the Lord, and that is as easy as floating to the surface of the water. I remember the first time I jumped off the high dive at the base swimming pool. My body plunged deep into the water, and at first I couldn’t tell which way was up. But instead of panicking—or even swimming—I decided to be still, and pretty soon the light above me became brighter as my body began to rise to the surface. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” The Hebrew word translated know here means “to ascertain by seeing.” When I am still, God will draw me unto Himself, and His light will shine more brightly as I draw closer to Him.
When my relationship with God is what it should be, then my relationship with my spouse will be right as well. A right relationship with God always comes first. In fact, take another look at the passage above. Before Paul addressed the issue of marriage with the believers in Ephesus, he first told them they needed to be filled with the Holy Spirit (v.18). And here’s a wonderful ray of hope: You can have a God-honoring marriage even if your spouse is not on board with you. How is that possible? Keep reading and you will see.
Marriage Is Intended to Paint a Picture of God’s Love for Us.
We who know the Lord are the church, and we are sinful, imperfect wretches, every one of us. We do not cooperate with God; we do not return His love; we do not always please Him with our words, thoughts, and actions. But in spite of all that, God loves us unwaveringly. There is nothing I can do to make my Lord stop loving me. Marriage is intended to be just like that. The husband is instructed to love his wife, and the wife is instructed to reverence—or respect—her husband. Period. No conditions. No questions asked. The husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church, regardless of whether she is worthy of his love. And the wife is to respect her husband regardless of whether he is worthy of her respect. Such love and respect are possible only through the power of the Holy Spirit.
A woman recently went to a female counselor for help with her marriage. She and her husband of 22 years had tried repeatedly through the years to resolve their problems, but the best they had done was to come to a stalemate. She would never leave him, but neither did she want to go on indefinitely living two separate lives under one roof. Surely intimacy was possible. The godly counselor listened for an hour as the woman poured her heart out, then she said, “Well, there’s no point talking about what your husband needs to do because he’s not here, but I have one word for you: Respect.” Then she told her to open her Bible to Ephesians 5:33 and read it aloud: “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” The woman looked at the counselor and said, “I can’t do that.” And the counselor answered, “You don’t have a choice. This is God’s plan for the wife.” The woman left the office sorrowful that day because she did not see how it was possible to respect her husband. But she trusted the Lord, knowing that His way is best. She asked Him to teach her to respect her husband, and she committed to learning this lesson no matter how long it may take. She accepted the fact that her husband may never change, but her attitude toward him can change, and that alone will make a huge difference in their marriage, for the Father promised to reward her obedience. The story is still in progress, but I’ll let you know how it goes by and by.
“Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies with parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade—
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry,
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.”
The songwriter said it so beautifully: the love of God cannot be measured, it cannot be described, and it cannot be fully comprehended. You and I are unworthy of His love, but He loves us anyway. He created us, and He gave us richly all things to enjoy, but we turned our backs on Him and chose to go our own way. Did He respond by turning His back on us? No! He loved us so much that He sent His only begotten Son into the world to pay the ransom for our sins so that we could be redeemed and once more walk in fellowship with Him. What a beautiful picture! And we are married for this cause.
August 18, 2017
Photos courtesy of Pixabay