In an article discussing a televangelist’s recent statement that Alzheimer’s is sufficient grounds for one spouse to divorce another, the writer, Russell D. Moore, gave one of the best explanations I’ve heard of what a “Christian marriage” is. Far beyond a simple agreement between two adults to live together and help each other out, a marriage, in a Christian sense, is a reflection of God’s promise and relationship to man.
Moore begins by explaining that,
Marriage, the Scripture tells us, is an icon of something deeper, more ancient, more mysterious. The marriage union is a sign, the Apostle Paul announces, of the mystery of Christ and his church (Eph. 5). The husband, then, is to love his wife “as Christ loved the church” (Eph. 5:25). This love is defined not as the hormonal surge of romance but as a self-sacrificial crucifixion of self. The husband pictures Christ when he loves his wife by giving himself up for her.
Marriage is a crucifixion? Is he saying that being married is a slow, agonizing, torturous death sentence? Admittedly, some marriages I’ve worked on have looked like that on the surface, but that’s when both partners aren’t looking at the partnership correctly. Moore goes on to elaborate:
At the arrest of Christ, his Bride, the church, forgot who she was, and denied who he was. He didn’t divorce her. He didn’t leave.
The Bride of Christ fled his side, and went back to their old ways of life. When Jesus came to them after the resurrection, the church was about the very thing they were doing when Jesus found them in the first place: out on the boats with their nets. Jesus didn’t leave. He stood by his words, stood by his Bride, even to the Place of the Skull, and beyond.
Keep in mind here that the “Bride” doesn’t refer to the wife in today’s marriage, but to Mankind. In the same way that Jesus accepted His responsibility to protect his Bride (The Church) even to the point of taking her punishment on Himself, both parties in a marriage should see themselves as the never-leaving, refusing-to-give-up, to-the-death protector of their spouse.
The bible tells us that a “husband must love his wife as Christ loved the Church.” (Ephesians 5:25) Does this mean that a wife is less expected to love her husband sacrificially? I don’t think so. Paul was writing to a totally male-directed culture, so he emphasized the then-leader of the household should change his current attitude of ownership to that of sacrificial love.
Both partners must be willing to lay down their lives for the other in a conventional Christian marriage. We should be willing to love each other “as” Christ loved His Bride. “As” here has multiple meanings. I means “in the same way as,” “to the same degree that,” “as far as,” and “to the death like.”
And, while I see a few marriage relationships that go that far, I see way too many that wouldn’t even consider laying down their “life” for their mate. Their “life” here meaning their own selfish demands, their own interests, their own desires, their own comfort, or even their own opinions! If a husband or wife can’t gracefully say to their partner, “OK, Honey, whatever you want, I’ll go happily along with,” how can they expect to stand strong together through all the bitter attacks marriages face these days? And, if each is respecting the other, discussions will settle honest differences of opinion about issues that matter. (Or mediation will, as a last resort to peace.)
You and I, as spouses, must be willing to “take up our cross” for our spouses, putting their needs above our own comfort or even survival. We must be willing to die – literally and figuratively – for our sworn partner-for-life. If my wife cannot trust me in the little things, how can she trust me in the big things like fidelity?
Another thing Jesus said applies to us spouses, too. “You should be Perfect, just like your Father in Heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48). “B-b-but that’s impossible! No one is perfect!” you cry. Jesus knew that better than you or I do! But He was giving us a goal to aim for when He said to be perfect. Just as a good coach will say, “Go out there and win this game,” knowing that his underdog team has little hope of winning, so Jesus was telling us husbands, wives, and parents, “Go out there and give it your 100% best try. If you don’t beat them, at least let them know they met a team who was giving it their best.”
Whether you are a Christian or not, you owe it to your spouse to give your all; to never just half-way love them; to pour yourself out for them. You promised. You swore before God, your family, and your friends that you would do your best to be Perfect, that you would love your spouse, “as Christ loved the Church.”
You have it in you to be a “perfect spouse.” You have it in you to amaze your friends and family with how strong and true you are. You have it in you to teach your children, through your example, how they should live their own marriages and how they should parent their own children. Dig down and pull that determination up. If you need help, I’m here. But I know you can do it!
God bless your whole family!
STEPcoach Bob Collins
If you have questions about any of the Christian concepts or “code words” in this post, I’ll be happy to discuss them, or explain them to you.
[the original article by Russell D. Moore is at http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/septemberweb-only/robertson-alzheimers-divorce.html]