Let’s talk about relationships – more specifically, the dating / marriage relationship.
Now before you start groaning and move on to some other article (especially men), I understand and feel your pain. I, too, am tired of the “same ol’, same ol'” approach to relationships. But, I promise to present this topic from a completely different and unique perspective.
As a “single-againer,” I spent five years researching the reasons why my marriage fell apart. Additionally, I wanted to find the underlying ingredients for a fulfilling and lasting relationship. After all, isn’t that what almost every single person wants – a fulfilling and lasting relationship? I thought, Surely God intended marriage to be something far greater than what it has generally become today. And you know what? I was right! He gave us amazing instructions for relationships that most of us have overlooked! And yet, they’ve been right there, in His Word, all the time.
Challenging the Status Quo
Anyone familiar with the Bible or associated with a church has probably heard the two most quoted verses about marriage. A husband should love his wife the same way Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it (Ephesians 5:25). A wife should submit to her husband (Ephesians 5:22). The perception seems to be that if everyone simply adhered to these two magical verses, everyone would live happily ever after. Of course, the approximate 50% divorce rate blows that perception out of the water.
These two verses also lead to simplified and trivialized teachings that boil down marriage to love and respect. To have a successful marriage, the husband must love and the wife must respect. That’s it. Period. But that never worked for me. It all sounded far to simplistic and superficial.
When I hear such traditional teachings, my humorous, facetious side asks, Does this mean the husband doesn’t have to respect? Does the wife not have to love? Doesn’t this picture of relationships offer a very one-sided view of a relationship? And who wants a submissive servant for a wife instead of an equally-loving, mutually-feeling, reciprocally-fulfilling partner for life? Obviously, relationships entail much more than two characteristics or a simple 3-step plan for marital success.
The Relationship of Christ and the Church
When looking at the relationship of Christ and the Church, we sometimes oversimplify the role for husbands. We don’t look closely enough into Christ’s all-encompassing love. Marriage requires so much more than husbands taking a bullet or jumping in front of a runaway bus to protect their wives. Too many men are willing to die; not enough are willing to live.
Dying is easy; living is hard. Christ didn’t just die for His bride. He came back to life for her. Additionally, He intercedes for her, meets her needs, provides for her, defends, and protects her. Also, He forgives and encourages her, motivates her to be the best she can be, and ever lives in anticipation of spending eternity together with her.
From this perspective, we find a husband’s role is to meet his wife’s needs lovingly, respectfully, affectionately, and faithfully. He is to dedicate his time, strategy, energy, attention, focus, purpose, motivation – his all – to her.
To avoid this being a one-sided discovery, ask yourself, What did Christ tell the church? In keeping with the Christ (Husbands)-Church (Wives) application, this question applies to wives. To complete the mutuality of the relationship, let’s focus on Mark 12:30.
Jesus said His bride should love Him with all her heart, mind, soul, and strength. The word “love” refers to a direction of the will. It means finding one’s joy in the person being loved. We demonstrate this love through unselfish and passionate acts performed by a committed heart. It requires a daily choice to love completely, unselfishly, and passionately.
The word “heart” in this verse refers to the core of human sentiment. This correlates to the emotional aspect of life. The words “mind” and “soul” correspond to the intellectual and spiritual aspects. The word “strength” refers to physical power and ability. To sum it all up, we are to passionately and completely love God spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, and physically. All four aspects are to be equally present and fully engaged.
When we apply this spiritual comparison to marriage, a wife is to be equally, wholly, and lovingly interactive with her husband. This involves her spirit, mind, soul, and body. Also, it includes her reciprocal response to the complete love her husband gives her.
Human marriage is intended to mirror the relationship between Christ and His beloved bride. We love Him because He first loved us. Our love is not based on expected obligation or religious ritualism. It is based on the unconditional love He offers each of us. So we love, serve, and interact with Him with willingly, unselfishly, joyfully, and passionately.
Are you getting the picture God framed for marriage?