If you are wondering about the strange title, and maybe feeling like correcting the clearly poor grammar, please view the video below before hurling any virtual stones.
On a serious note, I would like to pass on something I read recently that I have found to be all too true in my own experience of marriage and the experience of many couples that I know.
I’ve been reading Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. First off, I have to say that if I were going to right a book of marriage advice based on my experience, this would be it. Much of what is in this book is rings true to me. I wish I had read this book years ago. Not only do I agree with much of this book (I don’t agree with everything, but these are minor points in the scope of this book), but I believe it also points us to Christ’s desire for marriage and other relationships.
The premise of the book is that to have a loving marriage that displays Christ, one should keep in view the many opportunities to be built up in Christ that marriage affords. The tag line of the book reads, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?” The author’s point (I’m paraphrasing) is that marriage isn’t supposed to be easy work, because it is not “easy” work to crucify our flesh and to live by the self-sacrificing life of Christ that indwells us. But marriage certainly gives us many opportunities to do just that, and through those experiences we are made into Christ’s image. Personally, I have found the most freedom, peace, joy, and fulfillment when I have loved my wife as Christ loved the church: sacrificially and unconditionally.
I would like to share a short passage from the book that I think hits the nail on the head in regard to living the marriage life and living by Christ’s life.
“Contempt is born when we fixate on our spouse’s weaknesses. Every spouse has these sore points. If you want to find them, without a doubt you will. If you want to obsess about them, they’ll grow – but you won’t!
Jesus provides a remedy that is stunning in its simplicity yet foreboding in its difficulty. He tells us to take the plank out of our own eye before we try to remove the speck from our neighbor’s eye (see Matthew 7:3-5).
If you’re thinking “but my spouse is the one who has the plank,” allow me to let you in on a little secret: You’re exactly the type of person Jesus is talking to. You’re the one he wanted to challenge with these words. Jesus isn’t helping us resolve legal matters here; he’s urging us to adopt humble spirits. He wants us to cast off the contempt – to have contempt for contempt – and learn the spiritual secret of respect.
Consider the type of people Jesus loved in the days he walked on earth – Judas (the betrayer); the woman at the well (a sexual libertine); Zacchaeus (the conniving financial cheat); and many others like them. In spite of the fact that Jesus was without sin and these people were very much steeped in sin, Jesus still honored them. He washed Judas’s feet; he spent time talking respectfully with the woman at the well; he went to Zacchaeus’s house for dinner. Jesus, the only perfect human being to live on this earth, moved toward sinful people; he asks us to do the same, beginning with the one closest to us – our spouse.
Begin to find contempt for contempt. Give honor to those who deserve it – beginning with your spouse.”
- Sacred Marriage, pages 70-71
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us not have contempt for each other, whether it is in marriage or otherwise, but may we have contempt for our own flesh when it causes us to resent, demean, or take advantage of someone else. The life of Christ chooses the way of love because He is love; often this is a very difficult way for our flesh, but Jesus tells us that if we come to Him with our burdens, His way is light.
To try to do this in our own power is foolishness. But to trust Christ, listening to and following the still, small voice within, is to find peace and joy on this difficult path.
I pray that this brief insight is helpful to you if you are struggling in your marriage or other relationships.
May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.
(2 Thessalonians 3:5)