Is your marriage based on works or on grace? Let’s be real, shall we? You are married to a sinful person. Your partner is not only imperfect, but they can be self-centered, lazy, forgetful, vindictive, make poor decisions, and well, fill in the blank. Now let’s get more real. You’re not the picture of perfection either, are you? For some reason, that seems far less of a concern because your spouse is worse, or at least, “causes” these…imperfections to come out in you.
Throughout the Scriptures, there are several common and related themes mentioned in the Old Testament and New Testament alike. First, we (believers in Christ) are the Bride of Christ and He is the Bridegroom. Second, our marriages are a reflection of the greater marriage between Christ and the Church. Third, our relationship with God is characterized or built upon grace and not upon works. Therefore, if our marriages are to reflect the greater marriage, than our marriages must also be built upon grace, and not upon works.
How do we have a marriage that reflects God’s grace and not upon works? Let me offer one question to ask yourself:
Do you have expectations for your spouse? Are you focusing on what your spouse is doing or not doing? If so, you are focusing on their works. You set up standards for them (law of works) and your attention is drawn to whether they met them or not. If they fail, they will be punished (by you) based on their failure (being yelled at, dirty look, no sex, etc.).
Then, is it wrong to have expectations for your spouse? No, not necessarily. Obviously, it is appropriate to have certain expectations for your spouse. For example, you should expect them to be faithful, to treat you with kindness and respect, to love you, etc. However, there are standards and expectations that may be placed so high that they become idols in your heart. In these situations, you become high king or queen of the home and your spouse becomes your subject that must meet your expectations. Your focus then is placed from yourself and then onto them and their actions.
Instead of focusing on what they are doing or not doing (and whether they meet your standards/law), focus on 1) how gracious God is to you by forgiving your sins (or you not measuring up to His standards); 2) ask His help to love your spouse as He loves you (not based on your actions); and 3) give your spouse the grace (the unmerited favor) He has given you. Unmerited favor is just that – favor, mercy, or love that is not based on what they have done, but on who they are (at minimum, being created in His image or being a child of God). Though you may find this difficult to do, seek the Help of His Wonderful Counselor.
May the God of grace empower you to do as He wills through Christ our Lord. Amen.