I had the privilege of hearing my boss speak at Gilead Baptist Church this past Sunday night. Gilead is starting a Gilead U on marriage (in the spring) and parenting (in the fall). It is to help their church see the importance of these two relationships, how they influence the church (and vice versa) and how the gospel has to be applied to both.
Dr. Stinson, who is the Dean of the School of Church Ministries for The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and President of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, spoke on this topic to kickoff the semester. It is always a pleasure for me to hear him speak because I know what he is saying is practiced in his own home, and I laugh the whole time. Also, I am convicted by what he says and can apply it to my life now - even though I am neither married or a parent.
(Italics are his, regular type is mine).
He started at the beginning - Gen 3.14-15. A Declaration of War! Cursing and enmity. Right there - from the very beginning, Satan has plans to attack the marriage. This war centers on the home. Through the family (conception, children), Satan's destroyer will come. (Jesus is born of a virgin Mary. You can trace his lineage by reading the first chapter of the gospel of Matthew)
You can see this all around. Divorce rate (even within the church, among Christians), in the tabloids at the check out counter, marriages failing, unfaithfulness on the rise, cohabitation so rampant among young adults, delay in marriage.
Satan wants us to get comfortable and not realize that we are at war in our homes. If we let things slide, tempers flare, complacency dominate, Scriptures and family worship fade away - then we are setting ourselves and our marriages up for defeat.
Malachi 4.6 talks about the work of Elijah the prophet in "turning the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers." Stinson remarked that one of the ways Satan wages war on families and the home is that the father's hearts on not turned toward home, their children. They are turned toward work, business, succeeding, and other personal interests.
Ephesians 5. This passage is central to the cosmic interaction. It is not primarily about submission and authority. It is about the gospel. Because of the fall, there will be no more harmonious marriages and argument free families. Dave Harvey wrote a book entitled When Sinners Say I Do if you need to read up on this topic - great book. Ephesians 5 paints a picture of Christ and the church. Marriage is just the picture. Since Satan hates the gospel more than anything, he wants desperately to destroy marriages. You and your marriage are targets.
If you care deeply about the picture Ephesians 5 paints, its not about who mows the lawn or pays the bills, it is about the gospel.
If you love the gospel more than everything else, all else will pale. How will you portray the gospel authentically in your marriage and in your home?
Several times a day we are reminded of our dependence upon God. When we eat, we are reminded that we have to eat - God doesn't. When we get thirsty, we are reminded that God never gets thirsty, but send us the Living Water.
Paul says no one hates his own flesh (Eph 5.29). Yet, why don't we treat out spouse that way? We are so often consumed with ourselves, when we should be consumed with others...namely, our spouse. You wake up every day loving yourself. Love the gospel so this (other's focused, loving your spouse) becomes second nature. Many decisions we make are for ourselves. We are self-centered, not gospel-centered.
What if God's greatest goal in your marriage was not to make you happy? What if the bigger picture is your sanctification and portraying the gospel? I think quite a lot about this, even though I'm not married. I think about my pickiness in a future mate, even those whom I will accept dates from? I want the gospel to be revealed daily in my marriage. If that can't happen, I don't want to be married. I do want someone I'm attracted to, because God did create sex and didn't intend for it to be a chore, but more than anything else, I want a God-glorifying marriage. Embrace this function for your marriage, namely sanctification, instead of praying and longing for a way out.
You don't need to question the will of God for your marriage. If you are in a marriage, that's it. Don't worry about if you are married to the wrong person, or made a mistake. God means for your marriage to stay pure and strong. And to the same extent that God loves the Gospel (He sent His Son) and loves your marriage (He created the institution of marriage), Satan hates it. How can you go home - right now - and bless your wife (or husband)? We care more about ourselves than we do about the gospel and our spouse? What needs to change in your life so you care more about your marriage and the gospel then yourself?
The Harris brothers wrote a book for (mostly) teenagers entitled Do Hard Things a few years ago. It was calling teenagers to not take the easy road, but to pursue hard things, excel at what they do, press on. Dr. Stinson said another great title for a book would be "Do Little Things". So often we fail in doing the little things in life. This is a biblical concept - be faithful in the little things (Luke 16.10).
Sanctification: I don't know what God's will for your life is - but I know it is sanctification. Since He loves His Son preeminently, you can bet you becoming like His Son is a first priority.
Many will say "my wife (husband, job, traffic, kids) make me impatience (angry, selfish). No, these things don't make you ________, it just reveals that you are _______. So, if you get impatient with your husband because he fails to take the garbage out when you ask him to, then its not him that makes you that way, the situation reveals that your heart is full of impatience and full of self. Matthew 15 says this very thing: "what comes out of the mouth defiles a person." What comes out of the mouth reveals the state of the heart. You do the right thing - don't be concerned with the response of your spouse. You do right. Start with correcting your heart and yourself. A saying my Mom always says is you can never control what others will do, just your response to the situation.
Forgiveness is key element of a healthy marriage:
1. Ask for it.
2. Create a climate for it.
3. Remember, you are clothed in Christ's righteousness, not your own.
4. This is a lifestyle, not an emergency valve.
5. Reconciliation is key - not separation, subversion, or undermining.
The question I left asking myself is this: What would help me picture the gospel the best? Would it be to get married? Would it be to stay single? What it be to be faithful in the things that God has called me to: to love people, disciple girls, write, be a homemaker, take care of myself, be a good steward? I think I'll choose to be faithful where He has me, and have faith that He will take me where He wants me.