ISSUES OF FAITH: In marriage, love endures all things

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” — Ephesians 5:21 NIV

MARRIAGE MATTERS. MARRIAGE matters for the health of our families; it matters for the health of our communities and the health of our society as a whole.

It is an institution put in place by God for the mutual support and care of husbands and wives (Genesis 2:18-25).

It is also a blessed relationship that reflects Christ’s relationship to the world (Ephesians 5:32).

Yet we have all seen our fair share of marriages and families torn apart.

The reasons behind so many dissolutions are innumerable, yet they have at their core something in common.

This commonality is why the unraveling of the family is as prevalent in the church as it is among those who remain at a distance to the Gospel.

This common problem that preys upon marriages, cripples relationships and destroys the family is self-centeredness.

Many times, couples find themselves in my office struggling with a variety of issues. Whether those issues are financial woes, career choices, health problems, drug addictions or infidelity, the root of the problem can be traced out by how they use pronouns to describe the issues.

Husbands will glance at their wives way and say, “She will always …”

Wives likewise point fingers, saying, “He never …”

The community of the marriage and the sanctuary of intimacy found there became lost somewhere along the way.

Rarely do couples come in and say “we are in trouble” or “we need help.” Instead, I hear, “I can’t do this anymore.”

Marriage is not an individual sport; it is a lifetime commitment of surrender and service to the one you have pledged your faithfulness and devotion.

Our Lord, in Mark 10:6-9, emphasizes the teaching found in the book of Genesis that marriage unifies.

Paul, in his letter to the Ephesian Christians, teaches the importance of protecting that unity and bond of marriage, submitting to one another.

Submitting to one another means doing things you don’t want to do or find enjoyable.

Submitting to one another means putting the other person’s needs ahead of yours; it means regarding the unity of your marriage as being second only to your relationship to Christ.

This is why the marriage vows say “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part.”

I am sure that we can agree that couples would not choose a life that could be described as “for worse,” or to be in financial crisis, or to have one or both of them ill.

However, being a companion in those times reveals the great resiliency of love to which husbands and wives are called.

We read in 1 Corinthians that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:7).

This love that endures all things is not superficial, childish or to be confused for infatuation or lust. It is a love that has been revealed to us in the person and work of Christ Jesus and now is at work in us — a love demonstrated by Jesus as he, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross (John 3:16-17; Hebrews 12:2; 1 John 3:16).

It is a love shown in sacrifice. As this love and devotion permeates a relationship, each person sacrificing for the other, a beautiful intimacy and trust forges between the spouses.

Consequently, a sanctuary where the husband and wife, together, can find refuge begins to take shape as they together face the challenges life brings grounded in the love and strength of God (Romans 5:3-5, Philippians 4:13).

Simply put, marriage teaches the world how to be in a relationship the way it originally was designed‚ not focused on self, but being self-giving.

The relationship found in marriage is the first teacher of all children, it is the stability for the wife as she goes to work and it is the joy of every husband as he sees God at work in his life through the touch of his bride.

It is the backbone of mankind and it is suffering now as it is being broken apart by self-centeredness and individualism both in and outside of the church.

If you are struggling with your marriage, know that you are not alone. Seek help now, and know that God will never leave nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:4-5).

_________

Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Patrick Lovejoy is minister of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Port Angeles. He can be contacted at 360-457-4122 or pastor [email protected]

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