Today is our last week of the series called Relationship Status. Next week, we’ll have a special message for our moms and ladies about having a humble spirit that is open to God’s call on our lives. So don’t miss that.
I’ve said this a couple of times and I’m going to say it again. Relationships are a part of what it means to be human. The question is not whether we have a relational status, but rather, what is your relational status?
Three weeks ago, we looked at the status of singleness. Whether you are single for life or single for a season, is it a gift that allows us to focus on God without a divided heart. It is a special opportunity for us to become more like Jesus.
Two weeks ago, we talked about when our status changes to being in a relationship. In order to really love others well, we must first love God with all we have and just as important, we must love ourselves in a healthy manner, because then and only then, are we able to care for someone else in the way they really need to be cared for.
Last week, we talked about when our relationship status gets complicated. When things get difficult, we should always go back to choosing attitudes that look like Christ. That allows us to heal and restore a relationship, and even helps us determine if it is time to move on from a relationship.
Relationship Status: #Married
Today, we’ll take a look at the relationship status of being married. Now, I realize that there may be some here today who are married and this message is meant to strengthen what you already have. For some, you have been married in the past and this message is meant to help you if you decide to get married again. If you are not married, I believe this message will still give you a standard for what God expects in marriage so you can prepare well for what might lay ahead in your future.
Additionally, many of us who are here will have the blessing and opportunity one day to speak into the life of someone that you care deeply about (maybe a child, grandchild or friend) as they are looking at getting married. What we talk about today will help you provide helpful and God-honoring guidance to them. Besides marriage was God’s idea first, so he certainly has a lot to say about this particular status.
I have found that in marriage you can expect two things. There will be joys and things to celebrate, but there will also be difficulties and trials. Expect it. I believe they both have their place. But when our relationship status is married, we enter into a sacred space and one that we are wise to handle as such.
The Biblical story of marriage begins in the first book of the Bible. In just the first 5 verses of Genesis, we hear the story of a creator God who makes all things. With just His voice, He spoke all sorts of things into being: day, night, sky, land and seas, plants, trees, stars, sun and moon, fish, birds, animals, but when it came to making human beings, God formed humankind out of the dust of the earth with His own two hands and breathes life into them. The story speaks of an intimacy in the creation of the first people. Then in chapter 5, we read a bit of a recap of how He made human beings.
This is the written account of the descendants of Adam. When God created human beings, he made them to be like himself. 2 He created them male and female, and he blessed them and called them “human.”
Something you may not realize is that all of the created order is complementary to each other. There is day and night. They are complements to each other. Land and sea. Sky and stars. Sun and moon. Plants and trees. Mammals and birds. Fish and reptiles. They are complements to each other.
POINT #1 – COMPLEMENTARY COUPLES
The same is true for the creation of male and female. God created man with a uniquely male spirit. He also created woman with a uniquely female spirit. Marriage is a time when two individuals commit to seek out these two realities, learn to bend toward one another, and see the beauty of what God created fit together seamlessly. Now I’m not saying marriage is perfect in the way we think of perfect, but when the creations come together the way the Creator designed them, there is nothing like it.
Author and lecturer Michael Ventura said it this way:
“Marriage is a journey toward an unknown destination — the discovery that people must share not only what they don’t know about each other, but what they don’t know about themselves.”
It is a journey that many enter into and many are on.
And I am not advocating for the traditional roles of men and women in a marriage, nor am I attacking it. I am simply making the point that God has, from the very beginning, intended for the complementary unification of the male and female creations to be in union, in marriage as a man and woman, husband and wife. The weakness of one is able to be covered by the strength of the other and vice versa. There is an encouragement in this complementary connection that prompts us to be like Christ.
The relational status of marriage is one that Paul speaks to with clarity and conviction. He gives instruction to the early church on how to navigate such a special relationship.
Spirit-Guided Relationships: Wives and Husband
21 And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. 24 As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything. 25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. 30 And we are members of his body.
First, these verses are very familiar to anyone who has ever attended a wedding of any kind. More than likely you have heard these words spoken over a bride and a groom. Often it is emphasized that the wife should submit to her husband because he is the head of the family. There certainly is a special place that the man holds within a marriage covenant and a unique role he plays, but to single out the woman as the one who is to submit is missing the bigger point.
To rush to verses 22-24 is to miss verse 21. A marriage that honors God is one that begins in verse 21. Paul says submit to one another out of reverence (respect) for Christ. The expectation is actually mutual submission. It is the framework for the following verses. It’s what everything else is hung on.
POINT #2 – MUTUAL SUBMISSION
There are two forms of submission spoken of in these few verses.
The wife is to submit to the husband as the church submits to Christ. Well how does the church submit to Christ? The church serves Christ. The church loves Christ. The church lifts up Christ. What would happen if wives took this seriously? This is not a punishment. This is a privilege to serve, love and lift up your husband in the context of marriage.
What does the submission of the husband look like? They are to love their wives like Christ loved the church. How did Christ love the church? He gave up his very life for the church. This is not punishment. This is a privilege for men to love their wives and submit to them by giving up our lives for them. Men are to say “no” to things in order to love their wives. They are to protect their wives. They are to look for ways to sacrifice to lift them up.
This is mutual submission. Each person in the marriage is complementing the other by aggressively trying to serve and love the other.
Paul goes on to further express the plan of God for marriage.
31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. 33 So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Paul quotes Genesis 2 when he states that “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” Some versions even say “one flesh.” That tells the intimacy. The man, and the woman, will leave their father and mother to become a new family entirely. The plan in marriage is for two people, with different backgrounds, different makeups and different DNA to become one. This does not happen overnight. This takes time. This takes effort and commitment. This takes a discovery.
POINT #3 – BECOMING ONE IS A MYSTERY
In some ways, no matter how long two individuals have dated or been engaged, upon marriage you wake up to a stranger. There certainly are things that are known about one another and things that are appreciated about one another, but in the end leaving your family of origin for a new family is a mysterious adventure that is a life long endeavor.
Any kind of game that you play that involves mystery, like Clue, is a series of discoveries until the full truth is uncovered. It unfolds over time and it involves good questions and critical thinking.
Paul says that the same kind of deep truths that are there to discover in the endless connections between Christ and the Church exist in the endless connections that can be made between and husband and a wife.
Do you treat your marriage like an exciting mystery? Do you long to know the depths of your spouse? What if you were to consider this commitment you have made to another human being as the greatest adventure you have undertaken?
Ask More Questions – One of the greatest keys to unlocking a vibrant marriage is the ability to communicate to one another with intention. Not just passer by communication. Intentional communication.
Consider formulating a few good and open-ended questions that you would ask one another often. These could be utilized on date nights, at breakfast or while lying in bed. Ask questions that cause reflection and reveal importance, and yes men, even evoke emotion.
Questions like: What makes you feel most alive? What are your hopes and dreams? What are you most afraid of? What are you most proud of? What can I do to make you feel valued?
A couple’s ability to communicate is the way in which a marriage is strengthened for the long haul.
STORY: A married couple had a quarrel and ended up giving each other the silent treatment. Two days into their mute argument, the man realized he needed his wife’s help. In order to catch a flight to Chicago for a business meeting, he had to get up at 5 a.m. Not wanting to be the first to break the silence, he wrote on a piece of paper, “Please wake me at 5 a.m.”. The next morning the man woke up only to discover his wife was already out of bed, it was 9 a.m. and his flight had long since departed. He was about to find his wife and demand an answer for her failings when he noticed a piece of paper by the bed. He read, “It’s 5 a.m. Wake up.”
This kind of communication is not going to cut it. It will only leave both parties frustrated and discouraged.
So come on, study your spouse. If you want to continue in the journey of oneness, it will require a desire to continually learn about the one you committed to. Pay attention to the things they love, the things that bother them, the anxieties they voice and the gifts they have.
Like any good student, once you have gathered the information, apply it. Use the information you have gathered to treat them, protect them, support them and encourage them.
Asking good questions and committing to study will allow you to further understand the one you have chosen to spend the rest of your life with. It’s what makes the connections to the areas that you can complement and complete each other.
If you are married, I want to invite you to plan an intentional getaway for you and your spouse. It can consist of whatever time you can carve out right now. Whether it is a couple hours or a couple days, get away for a dinner, a hike, play a board game, and spend time getting to know the person you are married to.
And if you are not currently married, I ask you to pray about a married couple that you can possibly help so they can get away by offering to watch their kids or maybe giving them a gift card to a restaurant or hotel.
A marriage in God’s eyes, is made up of one man and one woman who are committed to serving each other well. Marriage is an institution that God made up, not us. He has designed male and female specifically to complement one another.
Marriage is about much more than a few rings, some cake and the Cupid Shuffle. Marriage is about the Kingdom of God. The way a husband and wife submit to one another and love one another is a picture of the kind of love Jesus has for the Church.
My marriage matters because it is a picture of Jesus’ love for the world. Therefore, you have a responsibility to love your spouse with the love of Jesus Christ. So make intentional decisions to sacrificially love your spouse.
One of the best we can see how to do that is to remember how Christ loves us.