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A grip on marriage

It’s been a long time since I have addressed the subject of marriage. Primarily, it’s because I know that everybody is not married, nor should they be. In addition, I am aware that sometimes marriages end in divorce as “the lesser of two evils,” and that the church’s task is to lift burdens not add to them. However, I do believe that marriage is the basis of family life and is of critical importance to the welfare of humankind.

Not long after performing a wedding ceremony, a young married woman rushed up to me in the hallway of the church and said, “I appreciate your remarks about marriage but the real question is ‘How do you stay married?’ I hope you will address that subject sometimes.”

So today I am focusing on the crucial subject of “How do you stay married or how to you make a good marriage better, and I want to begin with the Apostle Paul.

Paul says, “For this reason (marriage) a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one. This is a great mystery, and I take to mean Christ and the church; however, let each one of you love his wife as himself and let the wife see that she respects her husband (Ephesians 5: 31-33).

Now Paul is writing these words in a society that thought very little of women or marriage. At that time, the marriage bond itself was on the way to complete breakdown. Thus Paul was calling men and women to a new fidelity and a new priority and a new fellowship

In the married life.

So in terms of staying married or making a good marriage better, Paul says that the love between a husband and wife should be like the love Christ manifest toward the church.

First, it’s a sacrificial love. This kind of love is based, not in self-interest but in self-giving.

Second, it’s a priority love. This love takes priority over all other loves.

I once knew a couple who met on Dec. 23, 1934. On Jan. 23, 1935, this friend gave his wife a single rose in honor of their month’s anniversary. This became his regular practice. Every month on the 23rd day he brought his wife a flower. Even during the war years when he was overseas, he arranged with his florist to deliver the flowers. This husband gave his wife a flower every month for 54 years until his death. Again, that’s priority love.

Third, it’s an understanding love.

Charles Swindoll said he had a rush of affection for his wife so he wrote on a note three words, I love you.” He said he stuck it on her mirror and took off for the office. When he came home later the note was gone, and he didn’t think much more about it. He figured his wife saw it, waded it up and went about her day. But to his surprise, he and his wife took a drive in her car a few weeks later and there it was, stuck to her dashboard. Three simple words but they meant the world to her. Charles Swindoll understood the importance of telling his wife he loved her.

Finally, it’s a respectful love. There is simply no way to sustain a marriage with disrespect. If we want our marriages to flourish and last, we need to love each other in respectful ways-stop trying to change each other, forsaking all others, listening to each other, appreciating each other, and making a growing commitment to each other.

“As Christ loves the church,” Paul said.