Understanding Love and Marriage

eb3dde0a3033378661f9814c8972480dI have been married to my wife Lacy for fifteen years this past June. She is without a doubt one of the greatest gifts the Lord has given me. We’ve had our ups and downs. There has been laughter and tears. But through it all I’ve never regretted a single moment with her.

Looking back and thinking upon our wedding day, it seems like it flew by in such a blur. Truth be told, it was my hope on that day that the ceremony would go by as quickly as possible.

At the time when we were married, I was extremely nervous at the thought of standing at the front of a church before hundreds of people. And yet years later God would call me to be a pastor. Now I stand at the front of His church full of people each Sunday morning. Oh, the irony.

I have a few regrets when I think back to the day of our wedding. I wish that I had paid more attention to the vows that we spoke to one another. I wish that I had been walking in a true relationship with Christ at that time in my life. I wish that I had read Ephesians chapter 5 with a proper understanding of what the Apostle Paul was writing.

“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.” Ephesians 5:25-32.

Marriage was designed by God. Not primarily for our happiness, but rather to conform us into the image of Christ. In the above text, Paul writes that the husband is the mirror image of Christ, and the wife represents His church. The implications of this are huge. In the covenant of marriage, we see a living breathing picture of the Gospel. We see a picture of Christ and His bride.

When we think of the relationship between Christ and the church, many words come to mind. Words such as unconditional love, grace, mercy, long-suffering, and unwavering commitment. Although we, the church, have been rebellious at times and have been unfaithful in our affections towards Jesus, He has always remained faithful, displaying grace, mercy, and unconditional love even when it was not deserved.

Marriage is a reenactment of divine love. It is a depiction of the Gospel. And because of this, marriage is under great attack from Satan. The evil one has been defeated by Christ and has no power against Him. So if He cannot destroy Christ, the next best thing is for Him to set his sights on demolishing the very image of the Gospel on earth.

Sadly, numerous marriage are falling prey to Satanic attack. And it is because our culture lacks an understanding of what marriage portrays and what love is. Love in our world is only understood in a post modern context. The word love in today’s society has no concrete definition. It is like a boat without an anchor.

Love is used carelessly for anything that makes us happy at the moment. Case in point, we love our spouses, but we also love our sports team. And we love certain movies and certain foods. Love in our world today merely means that the object of our affection makes us feel good in some way.

Culture speaks loudly into this false idea of love. Iconic movies and popular songs portray love as just some overwhelming, euphoric, emotion or feeling. Here is the problem with that. If love is truly nothing more than a good feeling, then no marriage is safe. Because feelings and emotions change.

We love our sports team until they begin to consistently lose games. We love our favorite food until it makes us sick. And we love our spouses as long as they are meeting our standard for happiness. But once we become unhappy, society tells us that its ok to move on. Even the old cliché “I’ve fallen in love” feeds this notion. Because as one theologian properly put it, “Anything you can fall into you can climb right back out of.”

My wife Lacy once spoke with a woman who was on the brink of filing for divorce from her husband. The man had been emotionally cold and shut off from his family for months. No adultery or physical abuse had taken place thank goodness. But still, the situation was not good.

The husband had finally reached a point to where he claimed he was willing to work on the marriage. But after all the damage, the wife wanted a divorce. The wife made the comment to Lacy, “I know God doesn’t approve of divorce, but when is enough enough?” Basically this woman was looking for justification to file for a divorce.

So what is the answer to her question? If marriage was created by God to be a reflection of Christ and His church, then we should look to that relationship to answer the question, “When is enough enough?”

The bride of Christ, His church, has never loved God as He ought to be loved. We have carved out other God’s for ourselves in the form of hobbies, vices, and earthly relationships and places them above our love for the Lord. We have consistently strayed only to return to Him repenting of our sins.

Has God ever once denied to forgive me of my rebellion against Him? Has the Lord ever told you that He was unwilling to put up with your sins any longer? Never. Christ’s love for His church was never based on His feelings. When we deserved His wrath, He repaid us with grace and mercy. Jesus forgave the unforgivable, going so far as to take the punishment upon Himself for our transgressions. Jesus didn’t feel like dying for our sins.

Jesus chose to die for the sins of His bride.

Therein lies one of the great mysteries that the Apostle Paul was revealing about marriage. Marital love is not grounded in emotion or feelings, but rather it is a daily choice. A dying to self. Marriage is about putting your spouse and their needs above your own desires, even when they don’t deserve it. Marriage is meant to remind us of how God loves us.

And when we come to grasps with how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, even in the midst of our sins, it is then that we can truly love our spouse. We can then forgive the unforgivable, because we know that we have been forgiven by God. We can then show grace and mercy, because we understand that we were given these gifts undeservedly. And it is in loving our spouse as Christ loves His church, we then become like the God we worship.

Isn’t it amazing that so many professing Christians worship Jesus for the qualities of forgiveness, grace, and mercy, but they are unwilling to practice them with others. Especially with those closest to them. And so when the enemy succeeds in destroying a marriage, he shatters the literally image of the Gospel.

It is in loving our spouse in the worst of times that we gain a glimpse of the unwavering love that Christ has for us. In a sense, the hard days of marriage are gifts from the Lord to allow us to see and understand the amazing grace of God upon our own lives.

Marriage is a profound mystery to the world. But through the knowledge of Christ, we know that the husband and wife union is the representation of Christ and His church. And the reality of this great mystery leads our marriages into an unimaginable joy.

“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.” Ephesians 5:31-32.

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