Over the next few weeks and months, let’s talk about relationships.
Now before you start groaning and move on to some other article (especially the men readers), I understand and feel your pain. I, too, am tired of the “same ol’, same ol'” approach to relationships. But I promise we’ll look at 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 as well as the underlying ingredients for a loving, fulfilling and lasting relationship. After all, isn’t that what almost every single person wants—a loving, fulfilling and lasting relationship with someone else?
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 has given us amazing instructions for relationships that most of us have overlooked—even though they’ve been right there, in His Word, all the time. So please bear with me as I share what I discovered.
Let’s begin by challenging the status quo.
Anyone familiar with the Bible and/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). It’s almost as if the perception is that if everyone simply adhered to these two magical verses, everyone would live happily ever after in wedded bliss. Of course, the approximate 50 percent divorce rate blows that perception out of the water.
These two verses have also led to very simplified and trivialized teachings that boil down a marriage relationship 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 too simplistic and superficial.
When I hear such traditional teachings, my humorous and 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.
When we look 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 simply being willing to take a bullet or jump in front of a runaway bus to protect their wives. Too many men are willing to die and 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. He also intercedes for her, meets her needs, provides for her, defends and protects her, 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.
Okay, now 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 our attention 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 and in finding one’s joy in the person being loved. This love is demonstrated 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, we find that a wife is to be equally, wholly and lovingly interactive with her husband—spirit, mind, soul and body. This involves her reciprocal response to the complete love her husband gives her.
The incredible intent for marriage is to mirror the relationship between Christ and His beloved bride. We love Him because He first loved us, and 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 willingly, unselfishly, joyfully and passionately.
Are you getting the picture God framed for marriage?
In the next article, we’ll apply these four aspects of life to dating/marriage relationships and closely examine how each aspect interacts and depends on the other three aspects.
Used with permission and excerpted from Nate’s book, Matched 4 Marriage – Meant 4 Life.