Monday, February 1, 2016

A Christ-Like Love in an Ordinary Marriage

How to better love your spouse with the love of Jesus.

There is a very high call that God has placed on marriages. In Ephesians 5, the Bible says wives are to submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ and husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church. Put simply, this means that God created marriage to be a reflection of His love for and relationship with his people. That is an incredible responsibility and a beautiful gift. It means that if you are married, God has gifted you with an earthly relationship that has the potential to be filled with the same love that He has for you.

How do we fulfill this calling? How do we take our ordinary marriages and create a Christ-like love within them? I believe in order to do this, we must have a clear understanding of the characteristics of God's love and apply them in our marriages every day.

1. God's love is forgiving. Ephesians 1:7 says “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” Forgiveness is the cornerstone of God's love for us. Can you imagine if God put as much pressure on you to be perfect as you do on your spouse? God would be quite lonely in Heaven. He doesn't though, He is an understanding God who recognizes that we mess up. All of the time. That's why he sent Jesus. He doesn't hold a grudge. He doesn't bring up your past sins every time He's disappointed in you and he doesn't punish you. Like the Lord does for us, we have to show a little grace to our spouses, remembering that they, like you, are only human. When we choose to withhold forgiveness, we create feelings of bitterness and resentment that pile up like bricks until there is a giant wall around our heart. I'll be the first to tell you, the wall is much easier to break down before the mortar dries.

2. God's love is unconditional. Agape is the Greek word for God's love for us. says that "God’s agape love is unmerited, gracious, and constantly seeking the benefit of the ones He loves." Oh that gets me feeling warm and fuzzy! That is the kind of love I want in my marriage. Will you be honest though and admit that there are times when you choose not to show love to your spouse because of something he/she did or didn't do? I know I'm guilty, but the love we show our spouses should not be based on their behavior. If we want a marriage that glorifies God we have to recognize that, while our spouses may not always deserve our love, we ourselves don't ever deserve God's love yet He gives it to us anyway. He so freely gives his love because it's not about what He is getting out of the relationship, but what He is giving. Our pride should never get in the way of our seeking the benefit of the ones we love.

3. God's love is slow to anger. I think most of us can agree that we put on our best attitudes for strangers, friends and coworkers and save our tempers, unkind words and impatience for our spouses. Your marriage, however, is not a safe place for your flesh to rise. Psalm 62:8 says "Oh my people trust in him at all times. Pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge." Instead of allowing our emotions to tear our spouses to shreds, we need to go to the Lord with our anger and frustration, lay it at His feet and allow Him to restore our patience and improve our attitudes.

4. God's love is sacrificial. Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice when He stepped down from his heavenly throne and came to the earth as a helpless infant. He chose to endure the pain, suffering and sorrow of a human life. He didn't have to. He could have easily accomplished the same thing from the comforts of Heaven, but because of His great love for us, he chose to die an earthly death so that we may live. Much like Jesus, in our marriages, we sometimes have to step down from our thrones of selfishness and get uncomfortable. We have to be willing to die to our own desires in the name of finding a middle ground, a place where we can both be satisfied. There are times it may be as simple as adjusting your decorating style to allow for a couple of deer on your living room wall. Other times it may mean supporting your spouse through a job change. Whatever the situation, great love often requires gracious sacrifice.

  5. God's love is steadfast. "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end." Lamentations 3:22. God's love for us remains the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. His love does not change with our behavior, it does not change with our success or our failure. It is constant. In order to arm our marriages with the same steadfast love, we have to nurture them. The endless demands and distractions of this world have created a environment of complacency in our marriages. We must put down our phones, turn off our TVs and shave down our lists of commitments in order to make our marriages a priority. Whether you've been married 5 months or 50 years, quality time together is everything. Our marriages need to come second only to our relationship with God.

All in all, it is only by placing Christ at the center of our marriages that we can even come close to achieving a love that closely resembles His. Our human nature keeps us from fully loving others in the way in which God loves us, but His is the example that we should always strive to follow.

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