At church this morning, the message addressed marriage again, this time out of Ephesians 5. God's purpose for marriage is set within the broader purpose explained in Eph. 1 as being "set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth" (v. 9-10) and to "put all things under [Christ's] feet and [give] him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all" (v. 22-22). Marriage is part of and a reflection of this universal purpose. Paul doesn't compare marriage to the relationship between Christ and the church because he was fishing around for a close analogy; marriage is meant to be a picture of Christ and the church. How do we participate in that purpose? Husbands lead with love, dying to themselves in order to spiritually nourish and wholeheartedly cherish their wives. Wives respond with respect, embracing the primary privilege of representing to a watching world how the bride of Christ responds to her Husband. The power that enables husbands and wives to pursue this purpose for marriage is first, the gospel - which turns our hearts from the gravitational pull to sin to focus on more than just what makes us selfishly happy - and second, the Holy Spirit. The section on marriage in Eph. 5 is prefaced by the command to "be filled with the Spirit, ... submitting to one another out of reverence to Christ." Our relationship in marriage is one outworking of that command, empowered by the Holy Spirit. (Side note from another recent teaching: the command to submit to one another is also elaborated for the relationships of parents & children - where we all agree that there a defined roles that don't get switched around depending on the personalities of the parties involved - and slaves & masters - "slavery" in the ancient world often being something voluntarily done to pay off a debt, and therefore more akin to modern employee-employer relationship than the type of slavery we think of from the American South, and again, this is not an arena where responsibilities get swapped.) The task that husbands and wives have in marriage is not easy, but we have the gospel and the Spirit to give us the grace we desperately need.
Aaron and I enjoyed a time of fellowship after hearing this message. We got to encourage each other for how we are doing well - Aaron for cherishing me with romantic gifts and surprises, nourishing me by fostering spiritual conversations, and leading me humbly by accepting guidance when I help him; me for respecting Aaron even when he is "not respectable" (his words, not mine!) in his sin, and for submitting my schedule to him. We also shared where we each think the other needs to grow (funnily enough, it was the same area!), and reminded each other that God will meet us as we seek to be less selfish.
Where are you all encouraged in your marriages? Share with your spouse first, but then please share with me; I'd love to learn from you!