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Rachael HillMemorial Website
Male and Female Created He Them
VIII. The Purpose Of Marriage - The Glory Of The Cross
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself
alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
- John 12:24
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.
- Ephesians 5:25
Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord.
- Ephesians 5:22
I want to clearly state that the truth in this chapter has been the center, the main goal of all that has been said in the preceding chapters. And I hope any lack of grace in the author has not prevented you from getting to this point.
Thanks to Hollywood and television, even a Christian's concepts of what marriage is all about are severely distorted, and they are most distorted among those of us who have never married! So we want to try to dispel some of the distortion so that by the grace of God, some of our dear single brothers and sisters will not be surprised once they are married.
And I also hope we do not lose here any who know that they are not called to marriage, that they would want to skip this chapter. It is key to seeing what God is after, even for those who remain single.
Up to this point we have tried to build a case that in creating man and woman, God had two things in mind:
OPPOSITES (for the purpose of CONTRAST)
Now, if we think of all that each of these words means, we notice something. Let's use our dictionary (Webster's New World Dictionary, College Edition) for help:
OPPOSITES - "extremely different; exactly contrary; antithetical.
ONENESS - "the quality or state of being one; singleness; unity. unity of mind, feeling, or purpose.
If you did not notice, these two words themselves are total opposites! And in so noticing, we must ask this question: How is it that what God is after in creating Man and Woman is two "exactly contrary" things!?! Believe it or not, there is a simple answer.
All that is eternal, divine, heavenly, and spiritual consists of diametrically opposed realities. Let us build a chart to give some examples:
|One Side of Truth
All that is spiritual and heavenly has two aspects that, in the limited mind and view of man, are diametrically opposed and incompatible. Because man cannot comprehend such, he builds his theology, his doctrines, his denominations, on one side of an issue or the other, rejecting the balancing aspect of truth. Thus we have the Calvinists and the Arminians. The Fundamentalists and the Pentacostals. And so on.
But in God, there is no contradiction. Somehow, He gave us these opposing truths to hold us in a divine tension which would hopefully prevent us from leaning to one extreme or the other. This very tension is from the Lord Himself, and it is essential to His getting what He is after!
So, we have these two incredibly different beings - Man, and Woman. But God intends that somehow, these two should become one.
I wish to diverge here to again address this matter of opposites in man and woman. We have only scratched the surface in this area. Indeed, we do not see the real differences between Man and Woman until AFTER we are married! (I think I hear a loud "Amen" from all the married ones reading this!)
It is not until a man and a woman begin to live together, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, trying to become one, together fighting the everyday battles of life (greatly intensified in these last days), that they really find out how different they are! And without exception, to all it is a shock! The differences go into every detail and aspect of life.
He will plan everything; she will plan nothing. He will always be on time; she will always be late. He will drive fast; she will drive slow. He will leave his clothes in a pile; she puts everything away. He will want to be around people; she will want to be alone. He will want the living room in blue; she will want it in red. He is careless with money; she is very diligent with money. He will neatly roll the toothpaste tube up from the bottom; she will just squeeze it in the midd le! (Switch the "he" and "she" whenever appropriate!)
And then there's the physical relationship. Singles, don't think you know everything. This area of differences only surfaces after marriage. Men and women are wired completely differently in their sexuality! In fact, I believe it is not inaccurate to say that men and women are sexually incompatible! (apart from the working of the cross in this area) When the excitement and newness wears off, it is discovered that a man is like a gasoline fire - the slightest thing can ignite him, and Poof!, the fuel's expended and fire out! A woman? She's more like a charcoal fire. Hard to start, but once started, burns a long time. And normally, the husband will be interested in "romancing" far more frequently than his wife will.
The very differences between us that made us so attractive to one another initially often become sources of irritation after marriage. And then they can develop into areas of conflict.
It's a shock to every couple. How could we, who were so ONE, before we were married, now be so INCOMPATIBLE? And then, at some time or another, IT HAPPENS.
These two, who knew the bliss and oneness of coming together in Christ, and the joy's of being one in Him, no longer feel "in love." It may be a week after the wedding - it may be five years after. But it will come. I know of no marriage that has not experienced this. Every marriage in Christ at some time will run out of natural love! Even the marriages of the most godly saints we know.
And when it happens, the first thought is, "Oh, my Lord, did I marry the wrong person?"
Probably not. But even if you did, it is a moot question. For now you are married, and so you should remain.
[What if we have really missed the Lord, and actually married out of His will? What we do is almost the same. We repent of our disobedience, and appropriate the grace of God to love our spouse unconditionally. I know one brother who shows no love to his wife, and his excuse is that she snared him, and he never really loved her. Well, even if this is the case, he now is married to her, and he must obey the Lord to love his wife as Christ loved the church and lay his life down for her. How much better it would be if he could say, "I know God put us together, and I can receive His grace to love her."]
So how can we, while single, prepare for this inevitable shock?
We must understand prior to marrying what will happen when we bring two so different creatures together and try to make them one: It will be only one of two things. World War III (a living hell) and maybe divorce, or:
How can two beings, who are totally opposite become one? God has made a way. And this way is what He is really after, because it is here that He is glorified.
In his little work, The Secret of His Abiding Presence, Andrew Murray points out, "Christ's highest glory is His cross. It was in this that He glorified the Father, and the Father glorified Him. It was as the Lamb slain in the midst of the throne that in that wonderful fifth chapter of Revelation He receives the worship of the ransomed and the angels and all creation. . ." "Is it not reasonable that Christ's highest glory should be our only glory too?"
What displays the true loving character of our Lord Jesus more than anything else? One thing above all. His steadfast life of laying down His life for God was ultimately expressed by His going all the way to death on the cross. He paid no concern for His own needs, only the will of His Father and the needs of others. He laid down His life for me. He laid down His life for you. And for those of us who are called to be married, He gives us a very unique way to die to self and lay down our lives for another and for our Lord Jesus Christ.
The purpose of marriage relates to the fact that it is that it is the most fertile of all environments for the cross of the Lord Jesus to be made real in our experience. It is in marriage that we can, "die daily" and "take up our cross daily" for the Lord. It is marriage that can expose self that we never knew was there, that it too may go to the cross and die. Oh, how much self there is in each of us that has never been exposed! But it cannot hide in marriage.
I would say that nothing glorifies the Lord more than when a saint takes the cross in some aspect of their life. It is only the Christ-life within that can do this. Self will fight the cross at every turn. But when self is seen to die, and the Christ-life is expressed, then our Lord is truly honored and glorified and exalted. It is only then that others are truly edified, built-up, and encouraged when they see another live the cross of Christ - indeed, they see the Lord.
One of the most common things to occur early in a new marriage is this. Upon discovering that the spouse is different than expected, the mate embarks on a militant campaign to change their mate. The format of the campaign will differ with the personality, but it always is a prolonged effort to correct the defects and or weaknesses in the other person, or to eliminate areas of differing viewpoints through trying to get the other to see things from our perspective.
In reality, the problem is not the other, it is self. The person who really needs to change is not my spouse - it is me. I avoid my responsibility to God for my self by focusing on my mate. The reality is I am not responsible for him/her. I am only responsible for me. E.g., a husband should never tell his wife, "SUBMIT!" - his only responsibility is to love her as Christ loved the church - to love her into submission. And a wife should never demand of her husband, "YOU DON'T LOVE ME! (ENOUGH)" - her only responsibility is to submit, and her submission will win his love! (I Peter 3:1,2)
Countless marriages have literally been destroyed by such attitudes (which really reveal deep selfishness) - especially when they continue for many years. This is why long before we ever marry, we must learn the way of the cross.
Simple. He makes his wife's needs more important than his own. Sisters, believe me, this doesn't come easily! Only through Christ! How ego-centric we men are! How egotistical! Oh, who knows the depths of the male ego! Only God - and wives!
Oh, how this takes the cross! You see, in reality, what the husband has to learn is not unlike the submission that the wife must learn - only his is to his Lord. No, I'm not off-base. He must give up his will, and put his wife first. Brothers, if you think you will marry to rule - forget it! You marry to die!
The husband must die to wanting to be king, and let the Lord be his king. He must die to "doing his own thing" and living indepen-dently, and learn to do everything "in fellowship" with his wife, hearing from the Lord through her. He must die to his sexual desires, putting his wife's wishes first. He must learn that it is his place to give in this area, and not take. He must learn to "wash her with the water of the Word," and then not only her, but his children.
A simple experience of mine as a new husband may help to illustrate. Forgive me, but I used to hate cats. You know, "every man that has a dog that adores him needs a cat to ignore him!" My bride loved cats, and wanted a Persian. Soon after marrying, during the work day I was in a home that had two very expensive Himalayan cats. Upon my comments of how unusual they looked, the owner offered me one if my wife and I had no children, which we did not. I said, "NO THANK YOU!" Later, on the way home, the Lord said to me, "Do you love your wife?" I said, "Of course." "Go back and get that cat." A minor explosion erupted inside me, but I knew I had to go get that cat. And how it surprised and pleased my bride and blessed me in return!
This is a silly and small example of the way God works in men to teach us to put our wives before ourselves, and Christ first.
Another way that the cross has to work is in the man's liking to be in control, having, "all wisdom." Brothers, give it up. One of the first things you will have to learn is that your wife probably hears from the Lord better than you do. And when she is hearing from the Lord, you'd better listen - grave mistakes await you if you don't. Then sometimes, what she insists upon will not be the Lord. And you will have to learn to know the difference!
The only way is for the cross to work deeply in our self-life.
I don't think I have much to say here, not being a woman. But I do know being submissive "don't come natural" to a woman. So this too is the cross. Oh, it's easy for some to submit outwardly, but inside "there's a fire a-brewin'". "Dumb husband. Doesn't he know any better? He's not doing this. He's not doing that. I need to tell him how to do it."
How do you submit to him when he's wrong? or hard-headed? Why is he so careless (or the opposite - concerned) with money? How do I get everything done that I have to do, and still fit into his schedule? What do I do if he is interested in some "romance" and I am not? What about our different views on disciplining our children? For the woman the answer is really the same as for the man - a dying to self, a placing of another before self.
You probably noticed that we have not much discussed "love" in this context of God's purpose for man and woman, and it may strike you as strange. After all, don't the scriptures themselves instruct the husbands, "Love your wives as Christ loved the church"? Yes, but the Word of God is clear about what real love is: "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for another."
Why did we use the subtitle "The Glory of the Cross" for this chapter? What was glorious about the cross? Was it not rather shameful? Offensive? Yes, from the natural perspective. But for eyes that can see, from the spiritual side, it is the most glorious display of the true heart, character and love of our Lord and Savior that we will ever behold. Were it not for the cross we would not know the depths of His love for us. Indeed, the cross was His exaltation this side of His ascension. And as Andrew Murray pointed out, it is ours also.
It is a great deception to think that the central issue of marriage is a love that is without death to self - a romantic love. Much of romantic love is "me" centered. This is not the love of Christ, and it is not the love which will build a marriage and result in the oneness that God is after. More than 20 years ago, after being saved, Paul Stookey wrote and sang in his Wedding Song - "And if LOVE is the answer, then who's the giving for?" Someone has to do the giving.
Yes, love is central to God getting what He is after, but it is not an emotional love. It is a love that sacrifices, that lays down its life. And it is a love that sometimes is devoid of a basis in feelings. Don Francisco in one of his songs, sings, "Love is not a feeling; it's an act of your will." In no place is this truer than in marriage.
We want to be clear that we are not saying that the cross is the goal of marriage. Nor is love. The goal is ONENESS. When we see two that are really one, we are amazed, knowing that such is impossible with man. It is a work of God and of the Holy Spirit. It is found only where two are willing to each die to all that is self, that only what is of Christ remains. And this bears "much fruit."
Galatians 5:22 - 24 on the fruit of the spirit says this:
...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now, those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
LOVE is the path that is traveled in this journey; the CROSS is the means; and ONENESS is the goal.
The goal, oneness, is really the person, the Lord Jesus Christ. But that is another subject for another time.
When the path is Love, the means is the Cross, and the goal is Oneness, the marriage will glow with the glory of God and be a radiant testimony of the resurrection Life of Christ. If we are single, may He give us a hunger to settle for nothing less.
Note: I recommend that singles might hold on to this book, especially this chapter, until you are married. It may be of real value after you marry and the tough times come. You will have the blessing of knowing you are not alone, such things are to be expected, and there is a way through them to what the Lord is after.