How many of you have been to the self-help section in your Christian book store lately?
The number of books on marriage seems endless. Everyone wants to know the secrets to an awesome marriage.
What if I told you that you already have the best book ever written for marriage on your shelf?
It contains the secret to a picture-perfect marriage. You guessed it, it’s the Bible. The thing is, most couples are willing to settle for a counterfeit portrait that is a terrible rip-off of the masterpiece God has already painted.
No place is the picture of marriage more clear in God’s Word than in Ephesians 5:21-33. It is a compelling vertical vision for marriage. A vertically oriented marriage is one where Christ is always in the middle of the picture. Think of it like a triangle where both spouses are looking up to Christ and as they move toward Him they are naturally moving toward each other. In this passage, Paul is pointing to Christ and the church as the example. It might surprise you however that the central point is not about how to be happily married but about becoming one for the glory of God.
Marriage is perhaps the closest we will ever come to understanding the unity in the Trinity. While the Trinity is still a mystery and the love of Christ for the church is still miraculous, the oneness of marriage begins to unlock this mystery. Like God’s love for us, unity is costly. Each spouse has to lay down something to achieve this oneness. That may be why so many marriages are in crisis. Marriage forces us to see our own selfishness. The real challenge is to mortify the flesh in you rather than responding to this affront to our flesh by attacking our spouse or the holy institution that demands we die to self. Gary Thomas asks a provocative question in his book Sacred Marriage: “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”
If you find that your marriage is not meeting your expectations or dreams you may have the wrong picture. Read Ephesians 5:21-33. It is easy to miss this next point. The power to love your wife like Christ loved the church or to respect your husband as the church should honor Christ is found in verse 21. Let’s consider this together.
“Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Husbands, submitting to your wife means laying down selfish desires and consistently putting her needs above your own. Wives, submitting to your husband means consistently laying down fear and a need to control and instead respecting him out of reverence for Christ. It is impossible without a deep fear of and hope in our Lord. Paul paints a very clear picture of how to have an amazing, God-honoring marriage in the rest of this passage, take time to read it. Becoming one is really quite simple but simple does not mean easy.
We must have the crisis of repentance to begin to crucify our selfishness and insecurities. Only then can we live in Christ’s power to love and respect our spouses as the Scripture prescribes.
Remember there is a process that follows the crisis. Give yourself time to develop holy habits, but if you find yourself failing, just go back to the moment of repentance and again lay down the selfishness or fear. Sometimes we have to return to Scriptures like this several times a day to remind us of God’s picture and purpose for marriage.
In case you need some help with this process, we have included 3 practical ways to get started:
- Pray a prayer of repentance for any selfishness or a distorted view of your marriage and ask God to make your marriage a relationship that glorifies him.
- Pick one verse from this passage to memorize and meditate on this week.
- Plan a time with your spouse to ask forgiveness and share your desire to be the spouse God has called you to in this passage.
Dr. Garrett Higbee