Monday, December 10, 2007

Weddings and Stuff II

Yesterday I looked at what the marriage relationship tells us about the relationship between Christ and the church. It occurs to me that looking at it from the other side of what the relationship between Christ and the church tells us about marriage is equally interesting. Because if marriage is supposed to be a reflection of that relationship between Christ and the church, we had best be making sure that we are reflecting that accurately! I’d go so far as to say it is our evangelistic duty! If the point of marriage from the beginning has been to point to and explain Christ’s relationship with his people to a world that doesn’t know Him, then as Christians we have a responsibility to make sure our marriages are built on the same principles and displays the same character.

So what can we say about the relationship between Christ and the church that is useful for building a marriage? What are the characteristics of Christ’s relationship with the church? How can we apply that to marriage?

  • Love – First and foremost we must remember that Christ’s love for the church is NOT dependent on how GOOD a church she is. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom 5:8. So the love between a husband and wife should not be dependent on how much they please each other, whether they leave their socks on the floor, whether they are looking pretty hot today or not. They should choose to love each other even when they are hurt and/or annoyed by the other, or just generally fail to meet each other’s expectations.
  • Grace – No one is perfect, and the people closest to us have the most opportunity to hurt us. In marriage this is exponentially increased, because not only is the spouse emotionally close, there is constant physical proximity as well, and all the little annoying things about life and about each of them are in the other’s face. Couples can use the things they do that annoy each other as an excuse to get offended, build up walls, hide from each other and over time this erodes the relationship. If we take the example of Jesus though, this is an untenable position. The basis of His relationship with us is NEVER all the things we do that he doesn’t like, anymore than it is all the good things we do. The basis of the relationship is GRACE, what HE has done. A good marriage needs to be firmly planted at the foot of the cross. Two imperfect people need the grace that God provides, so that they can extend it to one another, so that their marriage can reflect this foundational characteristic of the relationship between Christ & the church. Marriage is a perfect place to practise forgiving 70 x 7 times!! Matthew 18:22.
  • Transparency – We are all naked in God’s sight, there is nothing that is hidden from Him We don’t confess our sins to God because He doesn’t know!! It never comes as a surprise to Him! We are completely transparent before Him. And in the beginning before the fall, Genesis 2:25 says that Adam and Eve were “naked and not ashamed”, which I think is analogous to the church being transparent before Christ. What would it take for us to be naked and not ashamed within marriage? I think it’s about giving each other permission to be vulnerable and imperfect, and yet have that met with grace. I think that has to flow from our understanding of our own vulnerability and imperfection, and having experienced God’s grace in the face of our own weakness.
  • More grace - I think an understanding of how God sees a Christian (in terms of positional sanctification) means that when a wife looks at her husband she sees him through Jesus’ eyes. Sees him as redeemed, a son of the Most High, made for a purpose, made to just be him, made perfectly to achieve that purpose God created him for. That leaves no room for wanting to change who he is. This goes beyond the “in-love-goggles” where you can’t see the person’s imperfections because human-love has made you blind. This is seeing the other person as they are, but as they are in God’s eyes.
  • Servanthood – The basis of the relationship between Christ and the church is mutual servanthood. Christ came to serve. At the last supper he took the most menial household task of washing people’s feet on himself. He did not come with a big flashy angel army and impose his rule. He came, he served, he conquered!! Equally he called his followers to serve one another. I think this is what it is getting at in Ephesians 5. I don’t think submission is about who “gets the final say” when the “crap hits the fan”, but that each partner should serve the other.

Marriage is an exciting opportunity to display Christ's character to the world. If the world sees these characteristics of God displayed in the way Christians behave in their marriages in a way that human strength cannot achieve, it is testimony to the gospel.

God bless,

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