LOOKING TO PRAISE AND WORSHIP JESUS THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD. 18 No man has ever seen God at any time; the only unique Son, or the only begotten God, Who is in the bosom [in the intimate presence] of the Father, He has declared Him [He has revealed Him and brought Him out where He can be seen; He has interpreted Him and He has made Him known].

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

How to Love your spouse – in one (not so easy) lesson

Most of us in this world function on human love. We love our spouses conditionally – depending on what they do and who they are with respect to us and our own feelings. Or we “love” them through the difficult times, but we sure don’t like them all that much when things don’t go the way we expect.
As God-fearing Christians, spouses are responsible to be obedient to God in His Word.
For the wife, this mean that she is accountable to show respect to her husband, showing honor to him as God’s appointed head over her and the family: “…let the wife see that she respects her husband.” (Ephesians 5:32b). Admittedly, the verse begins with a counsel to husbands that states: “Let each one of you love his wife as himself…”, but neither part of the verse is stated as being contingent upon the performance of the other spouse. Just because he’s not being the husband Scripture says he should be, it doesn’t let you off the hook to be the godly wife the Word says you should be.
The Christian wife is, however, expected to obey God instead of her husband when what her husband demands of her goes against God’s Word. (Note that this does not include a list of “sins” like tracking dirt in the house or leaving socks on the floor – no matter how stinky they are.)
A godly wife has many other responsibilities, but the one thing for which she is not responsible is changing her husband. Only God changes hearts.
Because “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8), we are exhorted to love with that same love: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:7-11)
But how?
I believe that we must first learn to love God before we can love our husbands the way He wants us to – and that is with the Love that God Himself will give to us. The same Love that He has given for us.
We know from Scripture that Jesus proclaimed the first and greatest commandment as: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38)
Unlike worldly love, loving God is not an emotion or a feeling. God’s love is not dependent upon our feelings, our circumstances, or the other person’s responses (or lack thereof). God loves us with unconditional love, which is not based on what we do for Him, but who we are in Him.
So how can we learn to love God, when we can’t learn to do what only God can do? Only God is Love, and we can’t learn to be what only God is.
What we can learn is how to yield ourselves totally to God – to set aside our own thoughts, emotions, and desires so that God can love His Love through us. It doesn’t matter how many Scriptures we know, how many prayers we say, or how many Bible studies we lead – it will always be a moment-by-moment choice to love God and to lay our lives down to Him so that His Love can be manifested through us. Not of us, but through us.
We can’t change the circumstances we are in. We can’t change our past, and we can’t make everything turn out the way we want. But we can:
1. Keep and maintain our focus on Christ;
2. Yield ourselves totally (not mostly or partially) to Him; and
3. Allow His Love to penetrate our souls to therefore overflow through us to others.
But if we’re standing in His way, it just ain’t gonna happen.
If our own judgmental, self-righteous attitudes, laden with self-pity, spiritual pride, unforgiveness, resentment, bitterness and anger – stored up over years of hurt and pain – stand between our hearts and our spouses, the Love will be blocked. (Don’t ask me how I know this.)
To love God means to lose self. To set self totally aside. To be broken of self.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)
I think here of a worldly movie called “A Bug’s Life,” in which the children ants are portraying how their presumed warrior bug friends will do battle with the grasshoppers when the latter come to take the ants’ winter storage of food. The children ants are so happy that the other bugs have come to help them (or so they think) that they put on a play depicting the battle. The only trouble is – they depict the full reality so well, wherein the grasshoppers kill some of the warrior bugs, that as children ants chant, “Die! Die! Die!” the “warrior” bug audience gape wide-eyed before slowly backing up and cooing: “Ohhh, how lovely! Great play! See ya!”
How often are we prone in the flesh to the same response: Great Scripture, but die to self?
It’s hard work, choosing to not respond to your own feelings – again and again and again and yet again. And then some more. Then failing, asking forgiveness from God, and choosing not to feed your feelings. Again. (Yup, please don’t ask me how I know this.)
Too often, instead of confessing our negative thoughts to God that arise from our wicked hearts with respect to those whom we’re supposed to Love, we entertain those thoughts. We nourish them. We justify them. And we quench the Spirit.
Whine does not improve with age. Our self-life is just as ugly today as it was the day we first believed, no matter how long we have been Christians. Our motivation is wrong if we are loving only to have our circumstances or the other person change. That is human love.
Abundant life and Love is experiencing God’s Love through us – even and especially in the midst of our trials and circumstances. This is a far more dramatic and powerful testimony to others than the signs and wonders of the world. Joy, peace and love come not with the absence of trials, but with the presence of God in the midst of them.
Maturity in Christ is not knowing a bunch of memory verses, going to church regularly, or attending prayer meetings and Bible studies, but simply knowing how - moment by moment - to love God. And doing it.
Only God can change your spouse’s heart.
Only God can Love your spouse through you perfectly.
But only you can die to self.
In order to live – and truly Love.



Blogger Gojira said...

"Whine does not improve with age."

Nor the cheese that goes with it.

"Most of us in this world function on human love. We love our spouses conditionally – depending on what they do and who they are with respect to us and our own feelings. Or we “love” them through the difficult times, but we sure don’t like them all that much when things don’t go the way we expect."

That is the nail that drove it home right there! AMEN!!!!! What you have written is ***SO*** very much true. That is indeed how we "love," which is the total opposite of what 1 Cor. 13 teaches about love. It is tragic when a husband and wife wind up treating each other as just mere aquaintances! Marriage is to be a life long ***LOVE AFFAIR*** with each other!

Anither excellent post, Susan!

May 03, 2007 5:28 AM

Blogger Baptist Girl said...

When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now.... When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased. - C.S. Lewis

May 03, 2007 6:27 AM

Blogger Bluecollar said...

"Not of us, but through us."

Living sacrifices. Taking up the cross, and following Him. It is no longer I who live, but Christ Who lives in me. Christ, Who is our life.

Susan, great post and convicting even for husbands.

May 03, 2007 6:52 AM

Blogger Shiloh Guy said...

You put it very well, Susan. Thank you for your thinking!

It must be the theologian part of me that tends to stickle about certain words and concepts, so please forgive me in advance!

You wrote, "For the wife, this means that she is accountable to show respect to her husband, showing honor to him as God's appointed head over her and the family..."

I'm stickling on the word "over" which continues to promote a positional view of God's plan of marriage rather than a relational view and I think this is the very problem with a lot of teaching about marriage. It is this "over" idea that has led to so much marital conflict.

The entire context of Paul's "haustafel" (house table, or household relationships) from 5:21 onwards is RELATIONAL. It MUST fit with Paul's statement regarding mutual submission in 5:21! So the question we have to answer is, "What is the relation of the head to the body?" rather than, "What is the position of the head to the body?"

Many would say that my stickling is merely trifling but I think it really makes a world of difference in the way men view their wives and families and the way women offer their submission to their men.

Of course, this wasn't your main point so I beg forgiveness again.

Here's what I really loved, and it is true for both wives and husbands: We can't love our spouses as God wants us to love them until we love God the way he wants us to love him! Brilliant!

Dave Moorhead

May 04, 2007 9:12 AM

Blogger Gayla said...

I don't see a problem with 'over' or the positional view. It certainly doesn't negate the relational, IMO. It is what it is, and a divine appointment at that. (Eph 1:22, 5:23, Col 1:18, 2:10) The whole idea of someone (Christ, husbands) being the 'head,' by definition, means they're in a position of some sort of authority.

My boss is over me, or head of the workplace, if you will, but we still have a relationship.

My husband is head of the home, the ultimate authority. But we still have a relationship.

Can there be abuse? Of course. But a couple who has a right view of God and of the biblical teachings, and a right of view of who they are before Him understands how it all works together. IMO

May 04, 2007 9:54 AM

Blogger Susan said...

I appreciate your input more than you know. I was wondering what you - as a pastor - might think about some of the things in my post. Please always feel free to correct me or share your differing point of view. We’re all in the process of sanctification, and if I’m incorrect, I need to know.
I do think that I agree with gayla here on the perspective of husbands being positionally over the wife. I believe that wives are accountable for certain things and husbands are accountable for other things – such as being the head of the home. “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior” (Eph. 5:23) I see the “head” as positionally over the body and the comparison of Christ with the church directly related to the husband with the wife.
I think the wife is also accountable for allowing her husband (that is, stepping back and not usurping his role) to be the head. I think when wives assume the authority of the home (sometimes because there’s a vacuum there, but even so…) that it all goes back to the curse in Genesis 3:16 “To the woman He said, … Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” I think the flesh of women fights this and only by the Spirit can we overcome this tendency. But it’s continual battle here on this earth.
That said, after I put the last two posts up, I was feeling a bit frustrated by them. I wasn't sure if they came across as pious or self-righteous, like an "I've-got-it-all-figured-out" or "all-together" type of person. Interestingly, I had opportunity to put the thoughts in these posts to practice this past week.
I don’t always do it right (and didn’t this past week), but am thankful for God’s continual correction and guidance, as well as His bringing “all things together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” I must remember that verse during times of trial. Sometimes Scripture seems to fly out the window in times of trial. I’m sure it’s my flesh that pushes Scripture aside to allow room in my brain for self, self, self. Thankfully, I shall no doubt be given the opportunity to walk in the path upon which God shines His light rather than holding up my own measly July 4th flare that extinguishes itself as soon as it’s lit.

May 04, 2007 10:57 AM

Blogger Susan said...

By the way, I forgot to mention that I was put to shame in my own garden yesterday.
For two years now we've had what I refer to as a 'blight' of some sort of disease attacking our rose bushes and gardenias. (I've decided to let the disease win the battle against the latter, but I'm still fighting for the former.)
Anyway, as I was spraying with Orthonex yesterday, watching leaf after yellow leaf cascade from our rose bushes, I thought, "My plants die to self so readily."
Why can't I?
(Sometimes I use Scripture to avoid pulling up the weeds as well, lest the good plants be caught up in the same roots. :-)

May 04, 2007 1:46 PM


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