I recently had the privilege of giving the “message to the couple” at my brother’s wedding. It was such a joy to see my little brother (well, he’s bigger than me, but I’m still older) marry the girl of his dreams. God brought these two together, and I’m excited to see them pursue reflecting the gospel in their marriage.
Which brings me to this blog post. When I started thinking about what I wanted to say at their wedding, it really challenged me as I looked yet again at a passage of Scripture I’ve looked at 100 times. SUCH an important perspective to have within marriage. Here is the brief “message” I gave, focusing in on two commands given in Ephesians 5, verse 22 and 25.
I hope it will challenge and encourage you in your marriage as it has challenged me in mine!
Charge to the Couple
Ephesians 5:22, 25
“There’s a really great passage in the Bible that sums up well the heart of marriage. It reveals that there is a far greater meaning to marriage than simply two people making each other happy. Though, obviously, if you’ve seen Nathan and Allison together at all, you know that they are very happy together. But this passage reveals an even deeper and more meaningful purpose and joy for marriage. It says 2 things.
1st: “Wives, submit to your husbands as the church submits to Christ.” Now, obviously that’s a rather controversial thing for Paul to say, but it’s controversial mainly because it is so misunderstood. The heart of that verse is that the wife is to submit to the servant leadership of her husband. And so, in many ways, this command given to you, Alison, is also, by implication, a command given to Nathan to lead, and to lead well.
But the 2nd thing this passage says, which is to me the much more difficult command, perhaps: Paul writes, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church.” Did we all catch that? “Love your wives as Christ loved the church.” The question we have to ask: how did Christ love the church? He died for the church. In God’s design for marriage, husbands are love, serve, and give themselves to their wives so much so that it’s reflective of how Christ gave his life for us.
Culture vs. the Gospel
If we’re honest, this is oftentimes the opposite of we think about marriage: “I’m going to love and serve her as much as she loves and serves me.” That might be a more common mentality. The problem with this is that if we think of marriage as serving and loving our spouse as much as they serve and love me, it is inevitable that we will think we’re giving and serving more than they are! Why is that inevitable? Because we are naturally selfish people. And nothing reveals that more than marriage (perhaps maybe kids). We make a bigger deal of what we do for others than what others do for us. It’s our nature! That’s also why this mentality doesn’t work in marriage. Instead, God desires for us to reflect the Gospel in our marriages.
It’s a tall order for both of you to have as a goal that your marriage reflect the greatest event in the history of the world. We are all sinners, rebels against God. From birth, this is how we are! I didn’t have to teach my 3 year old how to be selfish, and how to think and act like he’s the King of the world. We like being our own Kings instead of recognizing God as true King.
And yet, even with this sin and rebellion against God, He loved us. He loved us so much that He sent Jesus to live a pure life and go to the Cross. And specifically, what did he do on that Cross? He took our sin and our shame and our rebellion, he took our punishment upon himself and died, though he had never done anything wrong. He died, then three days later rose from the dead, defeating death itself! There is no greater news in the history of the world, and the Bible says that if we repent, in other words turn from being our Kings, and place our faith in Jesus our Substitute and true King, we are saved from death and sin. So what does it mean for that grand truth to be your pursuit in marriage, to reflect it?
The Heart of It
It means, Allison, that your fuel for loving and giving yourself to Nathan, no matter what he gives in return, is the fact that Jesus loved and gave Himself for you even when you could give nothing in return. Nathan, your fuel for loving and giving yourself to Allison, no matter what she gives in return, is the fact that Jesus loved and gave Himself for you even when you could give nothing in return.
There is no greater meaning for any relationship in the world than for marriage, and God put it into the fabric of human society not just to make us happy and bring us joy (though it certainly does), but ultimately he wanted at the very foundation of our society and our families a reflection of his love for us.
This is very different from how marriage is portrayed in movies or in culture in general. While there is romance in love (and passion and emotion), love is not merely some pit that we fall into. Love is not merely something you can’t help but feel for each other right now, in the moment.
Love is a choice, a covenant, a promise to faithfully serve and love each other even when you may NOT feel like it, because anyone in here that’s been married for more than a week will tell you that there are times in which you can help but love your spouse, times that you don’t have the same emotional affection for them as on your wedding day. But I just have to tell you:
There’s more meaning, more stability, and more joy to be found in choosing to love each other even in the moments when you may not feel like loving each other.
It’s a paradigm shift, and I praise God that he doesn’t love us based on our performance. In the same way, Nathan and Alison: love each other despite your performances. Love each other like Christ loves us.”