A few months ago, I bought some waterproof mascara. Our son is getting married to his high school sweetheart this Friday, on the fifth anniversary of his asking her to be his girlfriend. It will be a joyful celebration of young love, and I wanted to be ready for the tears. But I opened up the mascara and put it on before church this Sunday, aware that the sermon at c|Life was going to be about marriage, and that my husband and I would be celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary the next day. I was pretty sure there were going to be waterworks. There were.
I love marriage. My husband, David, and I have had moments that have been challenging, like any two people in any kind of relationship. But as we reflect on our own now-getting-lengthy marriage, we agree that it has been good, really good. We’re grateful to be married, and to be married to each other. During our lives together, we have faced some hard times: the illnesses and deaths of six parents (why there were so many parents is another wonderful story for another day), illness, multiple moves and challenges related to parenting. We’ve made mistakes and had some great successes. But, at the end of the day, there have been some very basic principles that have made us conclude that though having a rich and fulfilling marriage — like having a rich and fulfilling life — may not always be easy, it’s also, to quote my husband, “not that complicated.”
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
— Philippians 2:1–4
David and I are very different in terms of our natural interests, but we share a mutual love of the Lord, and we take very seriously the character traits taught and modeled throughout scripture. It’s not that we won’t always be learning and growing, but as we both make every effort to live with the interests of the other being primary, we each have received abundant love and have plenty to give the other. Our focus on each other has made this New Hampshire girl invest in becoming an avid Iowa Hawkeye and NASCAR fan, and has motivated that classic rock and country music guy to surprise me with tickets to hear the London Symphony play my all-time favorite violin concerto… in London. And probably more importantly, it has made him do the dishes when I’m tired, and me rub his feet when work has worn him out. Selfless love, modeled by Christ and lived out by two committed people, can make marriage the best experience in life.
If you struggle to think this kind of marriage could be for you, you must realize that the entirety of what Christ came to teach and give is for every person alive. I pray that you will commit to making your spouse the most important person in your life as you follow the Lord’s selfless example of love. It is the prayer that I will be praying for our son and his new wife in just a few days, as tears of joy and hope flood through my waterproof mascara.
Target. Netflix. Chick-fil-A.
What do all three of these have in common? If you guessed “drains on my bank account,” you’d be right. But the correct answer is consumerism.
Guess what’s not on the list: marriage.
A consumer mindset is fine when you’re ordering at the drive-thru or deciding which streaming series to binge, but it’s not okay when it comes to choosing a mate or being married to that mate.
The Bible’s picture of marriage is radically different and explicitly counter-consumer. In Ephesians, Paul tells his readers:
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.
— Ephesians 5:22–30
Did you catch that? Do you see the sacredness of God’s marital design? It is the very picture of Christ himself, wooing, caring for, and providing for his beloved bride, his Church. The Church is his very body. No wonder he cares for it so deeply. In a very real sense, it is a part of him.
As a tangible expression of Christ’s union with his Church, marriage is in a league all its own. No other human institution comes close. As the Church, we are to care for one another as members of Christ’s body (see 1 Corinthians 12:26), but in marriage, this idea is elevated even further to the level of Christ’s supreme love for the Church. There are no other fitting comparisons.
But there are contenders.
These contenders want to replace the sacredness of marriage with a counterfeit version that cheapens marriage into something far less meaningful. They reduce marriage to a mere contractual agreement or worse, a consumer arrangement where each person is in it for themselves for as long as it pleases them. But when the contract gets breached, or the pleasure wears off, what then?
However, the biblical version of marriage is none of these things. It is not contractual. It is consensual. In God’s design for marriage, the husband consents every day to give himself for his wife, and the wife consents every day to submit to her husband because that is how Christ loved the Church, and how the Church is meant to respond. In marriage, the gospel is on full display. Christ gave himself for the Church on the cross, but he also gave himself for her every single day of his ministry as he taught, healed, and served. Everything he did was for her benefit and for his Father’s glory. When we maintain marriage at the level it was conceived to be, we will do the same.
Sound like too high of a calling? It is. But even though we will never attain the perfect selflessness of Christ for his Church or fulfill his call to perfect submission, that doesn’t mean we can’t strive for it. After all, the closer we approach the ideal, the closer we come to experiencing marriage for all that it was intended to be, and this truth from Matthew comes most vividly to life:
“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
— Matthew 10:39
If you want a deep, fulfilling marriage, don’t look to society’s norms of contractualism and consumerism. Look instead to the sacrificial love of Jesus toward his Church and to her submission to him, and you will see what marriage is truly meant to be.
And you can save your consumerism for your chicken sandwich.
For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
— Ephesians 5:23–33 ESV
There are times when I feel like I am preaching a sermon to myself. It’s almost like I’m preaching a sermon into a mirror because the primary word from the Spirit isn’t from me, it’s actually for me. Sunday was one of those moments.
You see, the enemy constantly tempts men like me to be passive rather than intentionally engaging the battle to which God has called us. There is a unique responsibility and accountability that is given to men. A call to create environments where others flourish. We have a God-given purpose to honor, protect, serve, and provide. It’s not that women can’t do these things (they actually can do them quite well), but men cannot abdicate this responsibility. “Headship” is not about rights and benefits, but about responsibility and calling. It’s a stewardship that every man is called to live out.
So yes, we live in the shadow of Genesis 3, but we have been called to fight the battle to restore it to a Genesis 1 and 2 world. You can capitulate, lower the standard, and simply fade into the current of today’s culture or you can begin loving and leading others like Christ loves and leads the Church. No, it won’t be easy because the matrix is strong. However, don’t lose heart. We can prevail because our God is even stronger.
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
— 1 Peter 4:10
A little boy was walking along a busy city street on a cold winter day. A woman out shopping saw the small boy and noticed that the coat he was wearing was only a very light jacket, and it was torn and ragged. Concerned, she walked over to the boy and asked if that was the only coat he had to wear on such a cold day. The boy replied that it was.
Feeling led to help the young boy, the lady took him into a nearby store and bought him a new coat. As they walked out of the store, the boy was very excited and happy to have received such a gift. He looked up at the woman and said, “Lady, I need to ask you a question. Are you God’s wife?"
The woman smiled and said, “No, but I am one of his children.”
The little boy replied, “Well, I knew you had to be some kin to Him.”
As children of the King, let us live today so others may see his love in us. Then we can have the privilege of sharing that love with others.
If you are not a member of God’s family, you can become one today. You will be blessed if you do, and then you can share God’s love with others.
Telling people about Jesus might be as simple as showing people how Jesus would act. In the New Testament book of Matthew, Jesus was asked by Philip what God was like. It’s a great question. Philip was curious to know the nature and the characteristics of God. Rather than telling Philip the attributes of God, such as God is holy, just, righteous, and merciful, Jesus simplified it for him and said:
“If you have seen me, Philip, you have seen God.”
— John 14:9
In essence, Jesus said, “Watch me, and I will show you what God is like.”
I believe the number one reason Christians don’t evangelize is fear. Some Christians are terrified to share the gospel. We are paralyzed with fear, yet God calls us to share the good news. But what if God wasn’t really concerned with what we should say but rather how we should live?
The apostle Paul wrote to the Church in Thessalonica and actually encouraged them to focus more on the life they lived instead of the words they preached. He even encouraged them to live quiet lives, to mind their own business, and to work with their hands so that their daily lives would win the respect of others. (1 Thessalonians 4:11)
When I was in seminary, it was the last time I would work in a public, non-Christian setting. Everyone knew I was a Christian, not because I told them but because of how I lived. My goal was to be the nicest, happiest, and hardest worker on the team to win their respect and hopefully earn the opportunity to share with them. Most of the people who are reading this devotional work in an environment where they can’t share the gospel for fear of repercussions, but we can all work in a way that earns the respect of our colleagues and gives us an opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.
So rather than focusing on what to say, what if we focus on what we do? More is caught than taught. Stop trying to tell people the attributes of God and start showing them. Your actions could help an unbelieving world to start listening to our gospel message.