A Grace-Based Marriage

Two gold rings - reflected candlesIs 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.

Loving Your Wife in a Godly Marriage

Getting ready for the wedding day, most brides and grooms choose a location for the reception, the food, the tuxes and bridesmaids dresses, the photographer, the DJ, and of course, the cake.  Ah, the wedding cake.  It’s tradition that the cake be a wonderful masterpiece with an elegant design, where all guests must revel in its beauty.  After the announcement that the bride and groom will cut the cake, the guests surround the newlyweds while hearing the oh so annoying cake-cutting song.  How will the cake be fed to the newleywed spouse?  Will it be a tender placement of the delectable cake upon the other’s tongue, or will the cake be ever so lovingly smashed in the other person’s face?  I was threatened by several women family members that they would disown me if I gave into temptation to match my bride’s face to her dress (white, that is).  They weakly explained to me that it isn’t very loving to do this to your bride.  I disagreed, but desiring not to hear their complaints for the remainder of my days, I fed my bride…lovingly.

What does it mean to love your wife?  To give her everything that she wants?  To watch soap opera’s and Oprah with her (Please, God, NO!!)?  In order to get a better understanding of loving your wife, it is important to understand that our marriages are a reflection of the greater marriage between Christ (the bridegroom) and the church (the bride).  So we must first pay special attention to how Christ loved the church, after all, Eph. 5:25 does say we should love our wives as Christ loved the church…

Communication:  How did /does the Bridegroom communicate with the Bride?  First, the Bridegroom revealed himself to His bride.  He did not stay far away, but he entered her world, her hurts, her trust.  Though the Bridegroom had it much better in Heaven, out of love he willingly placed himself with her.  He listened to her hurts and cries and had compassion.  He did not say, “Wait til commercial.”  Instead, he listened to her heart and to what her real needs were.  His words to his bride are loving direction, never careless advice nor dismissive words.  His words always invite his bride into a deeper relationship with him.  He looks closely upon her heart and refuses to judge (though he has every right to).  The Bridegroom, in love, woos the Bride with his love and his word.  He does not threaten, force, coerce, punish, or manipulate the Bride to give her love.  He desires it, but never demands it.

Service:  How did / does the Bridegroom serve the Bride?  The Bridegroom’s life is characterized by service to his Bride.  His love for her motivates him to sacrifice his life for her without the demand that she does so in return.  He realized that even in doing so, his Bride will not return the same intense and unadulterated love he had given, but that still does not deter him from loving and sacrificing for her.  He sees the sacrifice for his bride as the ultimate form of love for her, to give up his life for her, his beautiful bride.  Her sin does not change his love for her, but he eagerly desires her repentance and return to him.

Intimacy (pronounced into-me-see):  What does intimacy mean between the Bride and Bridegroom?  The Bridegroom desires real intimacy with his Bride.  He does not desire so much what she can give him, as much as the closeness in the relationship.  Being “naked and unashamed” with his Bride is disclosure of who they are inside and out.  It is the removal of anything that gets in the way of this closeness (sin, idols, etc.).   He is so passionate about sharing intimacy with her that he will sacrifice himself to remove these barriers for his bride, if she will let him.  Intimacy is about the connection of two hearts as “one.”

Loving our wives like Christ loved the church is one of the most highest and difficult callings we will ever have.  We were created for relational intimacy with Christ and with our wives (“It is not good that man be alone“).  The idols of our hearts, pride, and selfishness get in the way of a beautiful relationship we are meant to have.  If Christ-likeness is our goal (Rom 8:29), then we must remove the sins that entangle us and keep us from intimacy, and love our Brides as the Bridegroom loved his Bride…as Christ loves you.  As you do so, watch and see what the Lord will do in your lives.

This portion was taken from the Marriage Seminar: Building a Godly Marriage.  For more information about this seminar from Foundations Christian Counseling Services, please call Fred Jacoby at 570-402-5088.