Sunday, September 21, 2008

For Better or For Worse

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives
as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

-- Ephesians 5:25

One of the great things about the Bible is what it's definitely not: an unpractical book of rules and regulations delivered to humankind by some distant, unknowable power.

In fact, the Bible is quite the opposite. It reveals that God is Love, and He will go to any lengths to bring His creation back to a healthy, growing relationship. And to make His mission even more personal, He sent His Son - Jesus - to live among the people to experience all the joys and sorrows of life, and then pay for your way and mine for an eventual eternity of joy. How better could God explain His ways than by coming to live and teach among the lowly, the abused and the oppressed?

God understands the human experience because He lived it Himself through Jesus. And Jesus' teachings and principles - available to us today through the Bible - draw a roadmap for how we're to live our lives and grow among friends, family, neighbors - and even our enemies. The Bible is really God's owner's manual for our lives. In its pages we find practical guidance on topics that are just as relevant today as they were 20 centuries ago.

Marriage happens to be one of these timeless topics. But since Jesus never had a wife, just how much first-hand advice can he give us?

Quite a bit. It's true that Jesus never got married, cut a wedding cake or went on a honeymoon to Niagara Falls. He had no wife to keep up the homestead as he preached, healed and saved. But the Bible tells us that Jesus actually does have a bride - the entire body of Christ-followers around the world known collectively as the Church.

And this is where Jesus teaches us some important lessons about marriage. First - like He did during His earthly ministry - husbands and wives need to submit to each other. This involves voluntarily relinquishing some of our rights while honoring and affirming the husband's leadership in the family. As Jesus explained about Himself, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

A related Biblical lesson about marriage is that husbands should show sacrificial love toward their wives - just as Jesus showed for His Church. That's unlikely to mean that husbands will literally need to die for their wives (although it could), but it does point to an intentional sacrifice of time and a genuine commitment toward a Christ-centered life together.

Both lessons reveal a critical insight that our modern culture chooses to hide: successful marriages demand work, vision and commitment. And there's much more truth where that came from. From the first passages of Genesis to the last verses of Revelation, the Bible teaches volumes about love, marriage and relationships.

But let's step back and consider Jesus' attitude toward His bride -- the Church. How much stronger would our own marriages become if we adopted His principles of submission and sacrifice -- and then put them into action?

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