Saturday, January 28, 2012

How to love your wife

The Bible instructs husbands to love their wife like Christ loves the church. That's a wonderful verse for wedding speeches and other such occasions where love is dealt with on a merely abstract level, but there comes a day for every husband when the cake is all gone and he finds himself in the middle of real life, assigned with the seemingly impossible task of unconditionally loving a woman that he's frankly upset with at the moment. Does "love your wife as Christ loved the church" have any practical value in those situations?

I'm about to insist that it does. Here's how it works; every time you find yourself feeling mistreated by your wife, ask yourself how Christ loves you when you do the same thing to him. Then love your wife like that.

Maybe some examples will help:
  • How does Christ love you when you don't trust him, but doubt his ability or faithfulness to do what he's said he will do?
  • How does Christ love you when you don't submit to his better judgment, but keep tugging in the opposite direction of where he's leading you?
  • How does Christ love you when you're to tired, to busy, or not in the mood to sneak away and enjoy sweet intimate fellowship with him?
  • How does Christ love you when he's assigned you tasks in his kingdom, but your laziness keeps you from making more than a minimal effort?
  • How does Christ love you when you make poor stewardship decisions with the resources he has put at your disposal?
These are the types of questions I ask myself whenever I get upset with my wife. I find that it does three things:
  • It makes me focus on my own sin in stead of my wife's.
  • It humbles me. Do I esteem myself higher than Christ, since I hold her sin toward me against her, while Christ so willingly forgives me?
  • It gives me an example to imitate, of to how to love her in a way that brings about reconciliation.
On that last point, husbands, let me point out one aspect of Christ's love for his church: He doesn't love us because we first loved him. We love him because he first loved us. That is what makes his love so irresistible. Gentlemen, I am not interested in hearing a word about how impossible your wife is. You have the power to make her love you, by loving her first as Christ has loved you.

Here is our model. Here's how Christ has loved us. 
  • By doing good to us when we deserved punishment. 
  • By gently calling us back to him when we were pulling in the opposite direction.
  • By persistently wooing us when our first love had grown cold, and other things started catching our interest.
  • By proving his faithfulness again and again in response to our mistrust.
  • By continuing to provide for all of our needs even when we don't deserve it and don't bother thanking him.
I dare you to find a woman who will respond unfavorably to a man who consistently, over time, loves her like this. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The gays didn't do it

Weddings always afford me some opportunity to reflect on the demise of the institution of marriage in our culture.

In my humble opinion, marriage ranks among the finest of God's creation. And let me emphasize again that it is God's creation, not man's. However, man has taken upon himself to improve upon God's original design.

The last few years there's been a lot of controversy about legislation to change the definition of marriage to accommodate for marriages between two people of the same sex. Many Christians have, in response, rightly pointed out that marriage isn't ours to define; that if we're going to pretend that it is something else than God says it is, we'll do serious damage to the credibility and validity of the institution.

However, looking at divorce rates of more than 50 %, cohabitation rates in the same range, and the attitudes about marriage that are propagated through music, movies, TV-shows, jokes etc., do we really have any credibility in pointing our fingers at the pro-homosexual movement for changing marriage? Do we not already have laws on the books that change marriage from a life long covenant into a temporary contract that can be ended at our convenience? What's one more little change going to do?

So let's stop pretending like the homosexuals are to blame for the demise of marriage. It's been sliding downhill for a long time before they ever got their perfectly manicured hands on it. It was heading down long before divorce was legalized as well.

If we trace the slippery slope all the way to the top, I'm convinced we'll find that the first change made to marriage, triggering the drove of successive redefinitions, was when we decided that the husband and wife were the main characters in the institution. This is no small error. It is monumental, because once committed it will inevitably change every aspect of the relationship.

God created marriage as a picture of Christ and the church. Then secondarily, flowing from that picture, it is about the joy of the husband in his union with Christ as he shares in the experience of selflessly and sacrificially pouring out his love on his wife, and the joy of the wife in receiving this love and returning it by fearlessly and joyfully submitting to his caring leadership.

It is a great perversion when the primary focus of the marriage shifts to the husband and wife, and their needs, desires, and preferences. It inevitably puts the husband and wife at war with each other, over whose preferences get priority. It defaces the picture of Christ and his church and replaces it with one of a ruthless dictator fighting against his rebellious subjects.

And that is the cause of the demise of marriage. Everything else is just a symptom.

Yesterday I was blessed to attend the kind of wedding that make me hopeful for the future. The joining of a young man and a young woman who have consistently honored God in the way they have pursued and prepared for his gift of marriage, and whom I trust will honor God in how they steward this gift as well.

Congratulations, Stine and Jarmo. May your marriage always point to Christ.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What's up with all the aliens?

I don't know if you've noticed the trend of new planets, that are almost certainly inhabitable, popping up in the news every few weeks. With much ado they proclaim that "we finally got one", followed by a much less publicized rebuttal a couple of weeks later when they discover that it is either too hot or too cold or doesn't have an atmosphere or is made up entirely of peanut butter or whatever.

Now to be generous I'll assume that the premature announcements of unconfirmed results are more due to the fear of someone else publishing it first, or grant money about to dry up, rather than dishonestly trying to promote certain worldview agendas. It's an issue I take with scientists in every field, not just this one.

But either way, It has struck me that the pattern seems to be exactly the same as that of the elusive "missing link" (that's still missing last thing I heard). But it took me a while to connect the dots. Because as christians, we don't really have much of a horse in the space race. However, evolutionists do.

To me, it hasn't been such a big deal whenever a telescope sees a sign of water on a celestial body. I'd be surprised to see them bring home a rock that contains primitive life like bacteria or amoeba, but it wouldn't really rock the foundations of my faith at all. Even if they should find a way to bypass the laws of physics and travel to a remote planet and discover a highly advanced civilization of space squirrels, It really wouldn't bother me theologically. The Bible doesn't say it's there, but nor can I see any reason it wouldn't be.

After all, there are beautiful flowers hidden in remote rain forests that will never be enjoyed by human eyes. There are gemstones and crystals hidden in the deep of the earth, which exist only to glorify the creative genius of God, without anyone else knowing of them. What he may have hidden away for himself in different worlds is a subject I'll want to explore in eternity when I have the time and occasion for it, but as of now whatever it may be won't affect me other than move to appreciate his creation more.

But while the issue is not too urgent for us, it is very much so for evolutionists. Since their theory is founded on the presumption that life will be brought into existence spontaneously from non-life and from there develop into more advanced life forms it is an embarrassment that not every planet is inhabited with at least some form of life. It does seem very conspicuous, doesn't it, that with so many billions upon billions of worlds ours is the only one where life has appeared.

Of course there are excuses. To hot, too cold, no water, toxic chemicals, and so on, but still they keep finding life here on earth in the most unlikely and hostile environments. Even places more hostile than other planets.

So it's easy to see why every uninhabited planet, just like every missing link, is a constant embarrassment to evolutionists. Because it's a constant reminder that the theory in which they have put their faith doesn't hold up to the evidence. And it's worth a few billion dollars of research grants to get that quieted, isn't it?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Nope, you still can't divorce (1Cor 7:15-16)

Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? (1Cor 7:15-16)
This is a very controversial piece of text, since many are very eager to read into it something that isn't there. But let's start with the easy part. What everyone can agree on is that if the unbelieving spouse leaves, then let them leave. You don’t have to club them over the head and drag them to a dungeon in your basement so you can keep them around. When you have done everything you can to win them over, and at the end of it all they still decide to leave, then there’s nothing you can do about it.

The part that gets controversial is the question of what it means that the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases. Most theologians say that it means they are free to divorce their unsaved spouse and marry someone else. The text doesn’t specifically say that though. It just says they are not under bondage. That could very well mean under bondage to live together as husband and wife. After all that was the command the whole chapter started with. That is the basic doctrine that Paul is expanding on in this context.

And from looking at the Greek text a very strong case could be made for saying that the bondage referred to is not the marriage bond that God has bound them together with. First of all the word used here, dedoulotai - a form of douloo, is not the same as the Bible uses elsewhere when it talks about the marriage bond. Actually the word used means slavery, which is why some translations instead say that the brother or sister is not enslaved. I’m sure you’ll all agree with me that being bound to a spouse is not the same thing as being enslaved, even if they are an unbeliever.

In addition the phrase “not under bondage” is written in the perfect passive indicative tense. And we all know what that means, don’t we?

*chirp, chirp*

Well if we don’t we can do like I did and read about it on the Internet. It means that it is a present condition arising out of a past action. Which means that the believing spouse neither is, nor has been enslaved in such cases.

That means that if you are going to say that not enslaved meas free to remarry, you are saying that the spouse is not bound to the marriage, and never has been bound to the marriage. Even before the unsaved spouse leaves. But that would totally contradict verse 12-13, which say a marriage to an unbeliever is still valid. And that means we have to discard that interpretation.

So that that all this verse says is that a believer is not enslaved to an unsaved spouse who leaves them. They are free to not live together as husband and wife. Nothing more, nothing less.

Verse 16 confirms this interpretation. “For how do you know whether you can save your spouse?” What interpretation of the previous verse makes sense in combination with this one? Try it! If they leave, you are free to remarry, because you don’t know that staying single is going to save your spouse? That doesn’t fit together. This does: If they leave, you are free to let them go. But am I not responsible for staying with them and bringing them to Christ? No. How do you know whether they ever will be saved, and whether you’ll be the instrument to bring them there?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Making sense of 1 Cor 7:14

For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. (1Cor 7:14)
Now what do we have here? This is one of those verses that has always left readers scratching their heads. The lack of context has led to some strange interpretations, such as the idea that someone could achieve salvation simply by being married to a believer, or have a believing parent.

Others have used this to argue that there is clearly a transaction of holiness from parents to children, so therefore we should baptize infants.

But let’s take a closer look at the verse, and see if we can’t make better sense of it after all.

The verse starts with the word “for”, which binds it to the previous verse. You should not break off a marriage with an unbelieving spouse, for the unbelieving spouse is sanctified through the believing one. If that wasn’t so your children would be unclean.

I want you to notice that Paul doesn’t say “their children.” He says “your children.” That’s interesting. He is speaking in third person about those who are in mixed marriages, but then he switches to second person. So the children who would be unclean is not the children of an unbelieving spouse. It is the children of everyone in the Corinthian church.

Now that probably only made matters worse when it comes to understanding this verse. So let me explain how I read this verse.

I believe Paul is making a parallel between the relationship between a husband and wife, and the relationship between parents and children. He is saying that if those who are in mixed marriages can’t live with their spouse because they haven’t come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, then you couldn’t live with your children either. Not until they had been saved.

He is agreeing that there is a problem with being married to an unbeliever. The holy and the unclean under the same roof. What is set apart for God being mixed with what is unclean. But the issue isn’t limited to those mixed marriages. It is an issue that exists in every Christian home where there are children who haven’t come to know God.

But in God’s eyes that does not make the christian unclean, but rather it makes the non-christian set apart in a certain sense because of the christian.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Do not divorce! (1Cor 7:10-13)

But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife. (1Cor 7:10-13)
But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away.

Now we move on to the instructions to those who are already married. First to those where both spouses are children of God, and then to those where one spouse is not saved.

So to those who are married, he doesn’t say anything on his own, but reminds them of the words of the Lord Jesus when he dealt with the same question. “What God has put together, let no man separate.” And “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery”

I want you to look a little at the language used here though. It says the wife must not leave, or separate from, her husband. And then, remarkably it says “but if she does...” We’ll get back to that part later.

Then it says a husband must not divorce, or send away, his wife. There’s no “but if he does” in this case.

I don’t think the point here is to distinguish between men and women. I don’t see any hints of that elsewhere in the Bible. “Do not divorce” seems universal. Rather I think what Paul is doing is including both men and women, and distinguishing between divorce and separation.

So his command is the same as the Lords command: Do not divorce! And then he adds, do not separate either! But if you do, don’t further violate your marriage covenant, and seek to be reconciled to each other again.

Be careful so that you don’t interpret “but if you do” as a permission to break the command. “Do not separate” is still valid even if it is followed by “but if you do”. And the “but if you do” basically tells you to undo what has been done in the breaking of the commandment. It is a gracious provision to get you back on the track that you left, but you’d still be better off never leaving that track in the first place.

Then he goes on to address those who are married to someone who isn’t saved. When he says that these instructions are from himself and not from the Lord, he is not saying that this particular portion of scripture is not the word of God. That it’s just something that he made up on his own without any divine inspiration. What he’s saying is that Jesus didn’t specifically talk about the issue of mixed marriages during his ministry on earth..

This really is another case of “but if you do”, because as Christians we are commanded not to be bound together with unbelievers.
Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? (2Cor 6:14-15)
And in verse 39 in this chapter when we get to the instructions for widows, Paul says they can marry whomever they want to, but with one stipulation. They must be “in the Lord”. They have to be believers.

So this provision seems to have been made primarily for those who were already married before they were saved, and therefore had an unbelieving spouse, although there might have been some who had foolishly let themselves be bound together with an unbeliever after they had been saved as well.

This teaches us something about the nature of marriage. These are people who were married before they knew God, in a pagan temple, according to pagan customs. Their covenant was not established before God. But still he holds them to it. He considers their marriage to be valid, and expects them to honor it. In God’s eyes they are married even though it wasn’t a Christian marriage. I’m just pointing that out because you may find it useful when counseling people who come to Jesus with a complicated past when it comes to marriage.

Check back on Monday to see if there's an exception to this rule if you're married to someone who isn't saved (hint: There isn't)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...