Monday, October 14, 2013

Marriage, a reflection of the Gospel(Part 2)

So glad you came back!
I so desperately want to encourage you to fight for your marriage if it is in trouble or improve it, if it needs work.  There is not a marriage in the world that does not have room for improvement, including my own. Nor is there a marital issue in the world that God cannot help you overcome.  As I stated before, I have heard many a testimony of failing marriages renewed and divorced marriages restored. That's right, you can be on the road to divorce or already there and still have a shot at happiness with that same spouse. 

I heard of one pastor counseling a couple this way.  Marriage is not 50/50 or even 100/100.   If the husband is struggling to give 75% effort then the wife's job is to help pick up the slack and give 125% and vice versa.  Keeping in mind always that both partners need God's grace to carry them through whatever is required.  I thought that was a fairly accurate and applicable way to look at the teamwork aspect of marriage, practically.  Not bad, but lacking, without a greater purpose for their effort that goes beyond themselves.   Let's look at one of the primary reasons that God finds successful marriages important and what his idea of successful teamwork looks like, spiritually.

Scriptural Emphasis on Unity
Ephesians is a wonderful book for so many reasons.  Really, the first three chapters and the first half of the fourth are loaded with truths of how we are made alive in Christ and the oneness that we have in Christ.  The last half of chapter four continuing through chapter six are about application.  The idea being this.  Now that we are made alive and unified in Christ, everything about our lives is to be a representation of the gospel of Christ made living and active in our lives.

Ephesians 5:22-6:18 pairs different examples of submission and authority in relationships that were typical in the home in Paul's day with the absolute necessity for spiritual armor.  I will not go into the spiritual armor here, but suffice it to say that I believe it is essential to these relationships being loving; and representing a healthy application of spiritual authority and submission to that authority.  Not only that, but  that this spiritual armor, which is girded up by prayer, is necessary to a successful individual representation of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the world at large.

Scriptural Basis for the Gospel in Marriage
Now, as I am dealing with the issue of marriage my primary text for at least the next two posts will be Ephesians 5:22-33.  Once you read it, you will realize that it speaks to submission and authority as it applies to husband and wife. Though the text begins with wives, I will speak to husbands first, as I am a husband and I believe that the husband bears the load of the responsibility for the spiritual direction of the marriage and family.

The overall gist of the passage is this, Marriage is a reflection of the Gospel! as stated in
Ephesians 5:32. Wives are first asked, in this passage, to submit to their husbands as to the Lord.  Just as the church is expected to submit to Christ.  The reason that the church should want to, and is expected to submit to Christ is because Christ gave himself up for the church.  He died that they might live.  This is what husbands are expected to do.  They are not expected to defend themselves or command obedience.  Rather, they are expected to exhibit sacrificial love, even if in the face of perceived or actual rejection by their wives. They are expected to die to themselves.  If this is being done appropriately, then it will be much easier for wives to submit to their husbands as unto the Lord.  Over time, they will want to because of the sacrificial love that they see being exhibited by their husbands.

Unconditional Obedience to Christ
However, I would like to point out that this scripture passage does not say, wives, submit to your husbands as long as they are doing their part in succumbing to your every desire or not making a decision unless you agree with them..  Nor does it say, husbands, love your wives sacrificially only if they are submitting properly and showing you respect at all times.  

NO!  Christ died for us, while we were yet sinners(Romans 5:8).  It was an unconditional love, not contingent on whether we deserved it or not.  Consequently, both commands are expected to be obeyed by either party, in spite of the other's apparent disobedience.  This, as an act of obedience to Christ, not each other. It is to be done "as unto the Lord".  However, it is certainly much easier for each spouse to do their part when the other is doing theirs.

If we do not do this, we are selfishly hindering the gospel representation that is intended by the marriage covenant.  We are acting in direct, willful disobedience to Christ, which, I might point out, is the very definition of sin.

If unbelievers would get a hold of the truth of what Christ did for them at the cross, surrender their lives to His Lordship, and apply those gospel truths to their marriage it would revolutionize the divorce rate in America.

If believers would get a hold of these same truths and apply them to their marriages, it would revolutionize the divorce rate at least among the Christian population.  We should be competing to give affection,  not competing to receive it.  Our first gospel witness should always be to our spouses.  My prayer is that a fleshing out of these roles will help toward a greater understanding of how the selfishness of divorce, and the things that often cause it, directly impact the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Hang with me,

Josh

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