A while back I saw, He’s Just Not that into You, which was a meh movie (not good, not terrible). The shining moment is the principle, “You are the rule, not the exception.”
This got me to thinking about how so often we live as if our story is somehow completely different from every other story. We act as if the principles that apply to other people do not apply to us. We get into trouble living that way.
Think about it, when we ignore the financial principles of living within our means and saving, we are completely lost when circumstances change for the worse. When we ignore healthy habits, we are shocked that our health declines. Wisdom tells us that results are predictable most of the time, yet we bank on being the exception.
I think this principle most powerfully applies to our marriages. My husband is first and foremost my brother in Christ. The way I am called to treat him is the same as the way I am called to treat every other Christian.
Further, the purpose of marriage reflects the purpose of the church: to glorify (reveal) God. What does it look like to glorify God in the church? Check out Colossians 3:12-14:
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
I believe this passage points to bearing the fruit of the spirit, most importantly, unity in love. This is how we reveal God’s work in our lives to the world. This is most certainly the case in marriage.
My relationship is the rule, not the exception. But this isn’t how I always act. I give myself license to hold a grudge or to use careless and unkind words, things I wouldn’t generally do with other people in the church. I make excuses that somehow my circumstances are different, but they’re not.
Sure, it is hard to love and forgive someone with whom you live, but Paul calls us to forgive as the Lord forgave us, not as we choose or as comes easily to us. The Lord’s forgiveness was costly, sacrificial, undeserved, and necessary to restore our relationship with Him. Such is how we are called to love and forgive, even (especially) our spouse.
Not only are we charged with revealing God to others, we are called to reveal him to our spouse. As we love and forgive as Jesus loved, we are incarnational. Marital forgiveness means more because it costs more than forgiving a stranger or casual acquaintance. It is also in a deeper relational context; you know each other’s faults and mistakes. We most need to know acceptance and love from someone who knows us well.
Christian love begins in the home. As Paul said, “Without love, all we do and are ends in ruin.”
Father, as we follow the path you have laid out for loving one another: humility, sacrifice, and grace, may we reveal your exceptional love to our spouse, our children, our churches, and to the watching world.