The Power of Christ on Display in Marriage - Part Two
Paul Dean Dr. Paul J. Dean's Weblog
- 2005 Jun 22
David Kupelian rightly commends his grandparents for a long and happy marriage. What makes his commendation all the more compelling is that "their marriage had been arranged by their Greek families according to old-country custom" and when they applied for a marriage license they had only known each other for one day. How did their marriage survive for more than fifty years in light of such a beginning? How did they stay together "through the Great Depression, [build] a successful business, put all four kids through college, [see] them all married and [produce] 13 grandchildren, and [live] a long and exemplary life of Christian service to others[?]" As Christians, "they learned to love each other." The power of Christ was operative in their marriage.
In part one of this article highlighting the power of Christ in marriage, the responsibility of the Christian wife was set forth in order that Christian women might fulfill their responsibility in displaying Christ before a lost world. In part two below, the responsibility of the husband is outlined.
Paul refers to husbands in Co. 1:19 and says, "Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them." Husbands have a great responsibility in regard to their wives. First, they must love them. This love is sacrificial, unconditional, and service oriented. A husband is to love his wife regardless of her disposition. He is to give himself for her on a daily basis. He is to serve her without reservation. Paul uses the word agape in regard to the love a husband is to have for his wife because it is a selfless love. Moreover, by divine inspiration, agape takes on a new meaning in the Christian context.
Paul spells out this reality in 1 Cor. 13:4-8a. "Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails."
First, "Love is patient." The patience to which Paul refers is the patience one exhibits when wronged. It refers to a forbearance regarding offences, slights, injuries, or insults from others. The individual who loves in this way is slow to anger and unwilling to retaliate. He understands that God will repay. His duty and delight is to endure the ill-will of others. A husband is patient with his wife regardless of her attitude or actions.
Second, love is "kind." Husbands must be kind to their wives. Strife, arrogance, and division permeate too many relationships. Rather than disdain for one's wife, a husband must be considerate toward her. Tenderness should be on display as opposed to ugliness. Husbands should strive to be helpful rather than hurtful toward their wives. Those husbands who feel themselves superior to their wives should rather have a tenderness of kind affection toward them.
Third, "love is not jealous." Different people can be jealous of different things for different reasons. Whatever the case, love is not jealous or envious. Love does not wish ill-will upon another nor does it desire to have what rightfully belongs to another. Jealousy, like all sin, leads to more sin. It is not grounded in love but in selfishness.
Fourth, love does not brag. One who brags is seeking personal recognition. The one who brags is filled with pride and thinks himself more important than others. Moreover, Christ and His glory have been set aside for the glory of the individual. A husband cannot love his wife if he is focused on himself.
Fifth, love "is not arrogant." This dynamic is connected with the preceding one. The one who brags does so because he is arrogant. He is prideful. Arrogance is on display when a husband claims superiority over his wife.
Moreover, Paul had affirmed that knowledge puffs up (chapter eight). Any number of things could cause a person to be arrogant. In addition, a person who is arrogant may display that arrogance in any number of areas. The one who loves will put down his arrogance.
Sixth, "love does not behave indecently." In a culture where sexual immorality is rampant, Paul’s description of love is appropriate and applicable. Further, Paul had dealt with propriety in marriage relationships and propriety in the context of betrothal in the Corinthian correspondence. A husband who loves his wife has eyes for her only. If he can manage that, then he will avoid any form of impropriety toward other women. Moreover, he must act decently toward his own wife in all areas. The marriage bed is indeed undefiled. Yet, the Lord condemns many things even in the context of marriage including pornography, perversion, and forced activity. Husbands must love their wives and treat them as the precious jewels that they are. They may never lord themselves over their own wives. Whatever the relationship, the one who loves will act decently.
Seventh, love "does not seek its own things." The issue here is selfishness. Love is not such. A husband is to seek the welfare of his wife. Love is not concerned with self. Love is concerned with others. A man who wants to be well thought of because of his superiority in some way needs to learn selflessness. "Love flourishes in an atmosphere where two people trust each other and know that they will promote the welfare of the other." (Hendrickson)
Eighth, love "does not become irritated." If love is patient, then love will not allow one to become irritated with others. When love is on display, one's anger is under control. One's emotion is in check. A husband must call upon the Lord that he might love his wife. Paul says that the one who loves does not become irritated. He displays the love of Christ shed abroad in his heart.
Ninth, love "does not keep a record of wrongs." The picture here is that of an accountant who keeps a ledger of all that has been done to him. He charges sin to the account of others in meticulous fashion. He is able to produce an itemized list of wrongs he has suffered. Yet, Paul says that the one who loves does not keep score or bring up things from the past. The husband who loves is quick to forgive.
Tenth, "love does not rejoice in evil, but rejoices in the truth." Love does not delight in nor look for fault in others. Love looks at sin in the world and grieves over it. Love does not create mischief for others. Rather, love looks for that which is good and true. Love recognizes the truth that all are in need of redemption. The husband who loves is redemptive toward his wife.
Eleventh, "love covers all things." The primary concept here is that of forgiveness of sin. Love covers a multitude of sins (1 Pet. 4:8). If one is sinned against, it is a loving thing to overlook the offense. As love throws a covering over sin, forgiveness is granted and a relationship is spared from breach. Husbands will have to overlook the shortcomings and sins of his wife (unless loving confrontation is necessitated according to biblical principles).
Twelfth, love "believes all things." Love is not naive. Yet, in the context of Christian family and union, the husband who loves takes his wife at her word. The husband who loves believes the best about his wife. He will not assume the worst, even though her track record may indicate otherwise. The husband who loves will not easily believe unfounded gossip or vicious slander. Love leads to faith, primarily in the grace of God at work in the lives of the husband and wife. Husbands need to believe that God is at work in their marriage.
Thirteenth, love "hopes all things." Love and faith produce hope. Christian hope is an assurance of God's promises being fulfilled. Just as one who loves has faith that God is at work, the one who loves has a faith that leads to a solid confidence and assurance that God is at work in the context of his marriage. A husband is to fix his hope in the Lord.
Fourteenth, love "endures all things." This dynamic is the culmination of Paul's point in v. 7. The one who loves is willing to bear all things. He is indeed patient and kind. He has such love in his heart from the Lord that he bears up under the load of wrongs suffered, even in the context of marriage. He bears up under the load of positive action toward his wife, even the one who demonstrates she deserves no such loving treatment. The husband who endures all things exemplifies all of the loving qualities Paul has outlined heretofore. A husband (and indeed all Christians) is to bear up and endure his wife (one another) in the midst of the sinful society in which he finds himself.
It is important to point out here that in Scripture a wife is never commanded to love her husband. She is commanded to respect her husband and to submit to her husband. But, no command to love (agape) is given. In Titus 2:4, women are admonished to love their husbands, but the word there is not agape but philandros. It refers to affection. A wife is to be affectionate toward her husband.
Now, that does not mean that a wife must not love her husband. Wives are indeed to love their husbands. But, the point is that it is the husband's responsibility to serve his wife that she might then be enabled to respond with affection. She must be affectionate toward her husband regardless of his attitude. Yet, the responsibility falls upon him to love and serve his wife unconditionally.
Paul goes on to say to the husbands in Colosse that they are not to be bitter toward their wives. His admonition is a summary of his exposition of love in 1 Corinthians 13. When a man and a woman live together, if they do not proactively apply biblical principles to their marriage on a regular basis, bitterness and resentment can set in as the flesh is not put down. Two individuals who love each other can fall into ill treatment of the same by virtue of selfish desires. "Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members (Jas. 4:1)?" A loving couple may begin to fight and then fail to reconcile properly. Principles of confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation are thrown out the window. Bitterness can set in. Just as it is the husband's responsibility to love his wife, it is the husband's responsibility to mend the marriage. He cannot let bitterness take hold of his heart. He must love his wife regardless of the circumstances. As he displays love toward his wife, she will respond with a tenderness of affection toward him. In such, the power of Christ will be on display.
As husbands and wives fulfill their God-given respective roles in the context of marriage, they will have happy and productive marriages to the end. More importantly, Christ will be glorified in their marriage. He will be glorified in the world as others look at such a marriage and marvel in this culture of divorce.
As noted above, one author on the subject of marriage talked about "a couple married for 30 years who made a beautiful home for their three now-married children. The couple divorced last year because they had both concluded that they had drifted too far apart to continue living together in any meaningful way (one aspect of the drift was one partner's increasing devotion to religion and the other's decreasing interest in it)." He maintained that this particular marriage was not a failure but a success. He went on to ask, "Who has the hubris to call their marriage a failure? Their children surely don't think their parents' marriage was a failure. It produced three wonderful married adults, and it provided them a beautiful and loving home in which to grow up. One can only wish all marriages so 'failed.'" Sadly, far too many individuals and indeed couples allow this thinking to influence their decisions. The marriage was a failure from a biblical perspective. The power of Christ fell to the ground before a lost world as this couple drifted apart and divorced. Of course, one should not be surprised as one partner had a decreasing interest in religion. Certainly religion is not the answer. The answer is Christ. But the assumption may be made that Christ was of no interest to this individual either. The point is that when Christians marry and stay together, they demonstrate to the world that Christ makes a difference. When they divorce, they say to the world that He does not (Heb. 6:1-6). The real question is not whether or not marriage is tough. It is. The real question is, "What do you want to say to the world about Christ?"
[Scroll Down for Part One]