THE MARRIAGE ABCS
Copyright © Ufuomaee
This is probably the hardest thing for anybody to do, but it is also the most rewarding act of love. Jesus taught us this principle of losing to gain, through His death on the Cross, where He gave up His life to gain the world (John 3:16)! He gave an illustration of this spiritual principle, which is applicable to us as His followers, and profitable also in marriage. He said:
“Truly, truly, I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a seed; but if dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).
This is the principle of the Cross, the Wisdom of God, and it has GREAT power. Many know it as the sowing principle… You reap what you sow. You get what you put in… No pain, no gain and so on.
Jesus taught His disciples to follow His example by bearing their own crosses, saying “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it…” (Matt 16:24-25). Without denying ourselves, we cannot be His disciples. And we cannot bear His fruit.
We, who make up the Body of Christ, are called the Bride of Christ. Jesus showed us the love of a Husband, by laying down His life for us to redeem us and to bless us. Paul tells all Christian husbands that they ought to imitate Christ in this regard, and lay down their lives for their wives…loving them as their own body, even as Christ loves the Church (Eph 5:25-26). This requires great humility and brokenness. To be obedient in this regard, husbands must therefore die daily to self, putting to death the deeds of their flesh and submitting to the Spirit of Christ. They should have this mind:
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal 2:20).
Wives are not left out. While Christ led the way, by dying to redeem His Bride, He also commanded us to forfeit our own lives to gain eternal life. While we were yet unworthy sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8), and we show our love for Him through obedience and submission, and by forsaking all to Him in return. In like manner, a wife responds to the love her husband shows her through daily dying to himself…by following suit. She is called to show submission and honour to her husband, who represents Christ, as the head of their home (Eph 5:22-24), and she shows her devotion and trust in God by the love and respect she shows her husband.
“If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20).
The Bible presents us with this challenge, because many claim to be spiritual but are not! It is by obedience that our love for righteousness is proven. If we cannot die daily in loving submission to our spouse, how can we claim to die daily to Christ? We cannot!
So, what does it mean to die to self daily? What does it look like, and what is it not? I want to explore that with you today.
DYING DAILY IS:
- Smashing your pride. Pride and love have no business and no positive relationship. If you seek to love, you must forego your pride. You must humble yourself. This will mean that if and when you do wrong, you are quick to admit it to yourself, confess it to your spouse, repent of it to God, and if possible, repair the damage caused by sin promptly. You will not be ashamed to own up to your fault, if ever it is pointed out to you, nor would you have to be compelled to apologise. You will also be quick to forgive, remembering how much you have been forgiven. You won’t seek your own, selfishly, but only seek what will bring glory to God and joy to your spouse.
- Doubting yourself. This is similar to the first point, but it is more specifically about opinions and perspectives, and how we deal with these differences in marriage. Everyone thinks they are right. Everyone. And if no one ever doubted themselves, there would be no understanding, no resolution, no agreement and no reconciliation. You will be like two parallels lines that never meet, or worse, are divergent, drifting further and further apart. It is therefore important for everyone to doubt themselves. You could be wrong. Try to understand where your spouse is coming from in a disagreement. Try to see things from their perspectives. Wear their shoes for a while, and be compassionate, knowing that you also need them to do the same for you.
- Dropping the argument. Sometimes, even when you have smashed your pride, and doubted yourself, there seems no resolution to the problem you are facing. It may be that the other person is not rigorously dying to self, but it isn’t your place to crucify them! Dying to self is a choice, an act of love that each person must willingly do. If you’re getting nowhere, consider dropping the issue – if it isn’t of great moral significance. Forsake your opinion. You can agree to disagree or you can decide to submit to their way and trust God to lead you both. In most cases, the wives who are followers of their husbands will need to do this first. But men, who are sensitive of their wives needs, will understand the areas where they are more knowledgeable or more resilient, and submit to their counsel, for the sake of keeping peace and maintaining positive feeling in the home. Sometimes dropping the argument is a form of leadership, which says “our unity is more important than me being right all the time”!
- Changing your mind. There’s a saying that “if you can’t change your mind, why have one?” Proverbs also says “A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself” (chap 18; vs 2). People who are really thinking…who are really listening…who are growing in understanding will change their minds! Unless you think you know it all… Unless you think you are the most mature you will ever be? So, you have to be ready and willing to change your mind when having a disagreement or misunderstanding with your spouse. With the right attitude, you will listen to learn, and you will respond to what you have learnt by adapting your behaviour accordingly. Your spouse will also appreciate it when they observe the changes in you, because it not only shows that you are listening, but that you understand them, appreciate them, respect them and love them.
- Forgiving all offences. How many times a day should you forgive someone who offends you? You know the answer, and it isn’t 70 x 7. Jesus was just trying to communicate that as often as someone offends you, and comes to you for forgiveness, you ought to pardon them. Why? Because that’s what God does for you. Can you count how many times you have offended God? Even knowingly? Even repeating the same offence over and over? Jesus said that if we will not forgive, we will not be forgiven (Matt 6:15)! So marriage, especially, calls for graciousness. We ought to be ready to forgive, just as God is ready to forgive us…even future sins. Before they even think to say “I’m sorry.” Saying “I’m sorry” is for THEIR benefit, not yours. So that their conscience will be clear before God, and they can enjoy a restored relationship with you. But even before they say sorry, forgive. Because that’s what God does. And forgiveness is good for your soul (Heb 12:15). In time, you will hardly be offended, because you are so GOOD at forgiving and forgetting.
- Serving in love. Give, give and give some more. Enjoy the labour of a servant, because Jesus said the greatest among you shall be the servant (Luke 22:26). Do not labour as unto men, but as unto God (Col 3:23-25). Even when you don’t feel like it. Even when they don’t ‘deserve’ it. Even when you are hardly appreciated for it. Keep serving and doing good to your spouse. Let it become second nature. You will see that you will build them up…and as you build them up, you are building yourself up too – because YOU ARE ONE. There’s no benefit they will enjoy at the top that you will not share. So be faithful with the little things, and do not despair in well-doing (Gal 6:9).
- Going the extra mile. This is an extension of number 6. Jesus taught us that if we are compelled to go one mile, when we would rather not…we should go ahead and go two miles (Matt 5:41)! Don’t just do what is demanded of you, or what is expected of you. Go the extra mile! Put your all into it. When you prepare that meal, let it taste like you prepared it for the King Himself, and not your ungrateful husband! Don’t worry about burning out, because if you have the mind that you are doing it to the glory of God, God will bless you with strength to keep glorifying His name in that way. Draw your strength from Christ, by Whom you can do all things (Phil 4:13).
- Giving your spouse credit. This is another way you can smash your pride. Often when we accomplish something, especially when we carried the bulk of the weight, if not all…we find it hard to acknowledge or celebrate those in a supportive role in our lives. We have to actively resist this temptation, and consider what influence, what benefit their presence gave to our ability to achieve our feat! Even if it was their negativity that spurred us on… There must be some credit that can be attributed to our spouse. And I think, if we think about it, it won’t simply be negative. Maybe they gave you the freedom to pursue your passion. Maybe they inspired the idea or supported your idea, or helped with brainstorming the idea. Maybe they attended to other demanding things, so you could focus on your dream. Whatever it is, share credit, as you would with God, knowing that without Him, you could do nothing! Don’t hug the glory!
- Choosing to trust. It can be tempting to give in to doubt. It can be tempting to second guess your spouse, and wonder if they are lying to you. If they are cheating on you. If they are enjoying someone else’s company more…or hiding out at work. Because you are not with your spouse all the time, if there are problems in your marriage, trust is one of the first things to go. But once trust goes, there’s hardly anything else to build upon. Even if you think it makes you look foolish… And you would hate to be the last to know that your spouse has been unfaithful. Resist the temptation to snoop. Trust and treat them as though your trust them. Let your home be an inviting place they would want to return to, and not one where they feel constantly interrogated or nagged. There is such a thing as a self-fulfilling prophecy, so don’t tear down your marriage with your suspicions. The greatest thing at stake isn’t your pride, it is your marriage.
- Doing the right thing. The spirit and the flesh are constantly at odds (Gal 5:17)! The flesh will pull you one way, maybe to feed your pride and flirt with your secretary, but the spirit knows that it is better to flee temptation and consider those you might hurt with your wrong deeds. Though we are tempted to do wrong, we must constantly resist our flesh and do the right thing. Our flesh may tell us we are being unreasonable, unrealistic, overly cautious, overly religious…know that your enemy is a roaring lion seeking whom to devour (1 Pet 5:8)! He will say just about anything to get his way, and get you to let down your guard and do what is wrong. Rather, tune in to God’s wisdom, and remember that love doesn’t delight in evil (1 Cor 13:6). Also, if your spouse is trying to get you to do what is wrong, this is a time to stand for Christ (Luke 14:26) and do what is right, remembering that we are called to forsake them as well as ourselves in order to follow Jesus!
DYING DAILY IS NOT:
- Self-hatred. You are a child of God, worthy of love and respect. Before you can expect others to love and respect you, you need to treat yourself with love and respect. Self-denial doesn’t mean treating yourself as less than others, but overcoming our tendency towards selfishness and choosing to put the needs of others before our own, just like a servant (Phil 2:3-8).
- False humility. This is an extension of number 1. False humility, while trying to counter pride, actually destroys confidence. You can be confident without being proud. You can acknowledge your strengths, as well as your weakness, and use this knowledge to better serve others. Don’t talk yourself out of a promotion or blessing by trying to sound ‘humble’! Also don’t devalue the contributions you make to your home.
- Pretending to change. If you really haven’t changed your mind, self-denial doesn’t call for faking it. That is deceptive, and it destroys trust. It is also mocking, as your spouse will think you do not actually respect them enough to tell them the truth. It is better to agree to disagree, and find another point of agreement, than to say you will change and make a mockery of your relationship.
- Suppressing your feelings. Your feelings matter. You are in the relationship too. And you’re not the house rug. Express yourself and your feelings with respect. Be prayerful and humble about addressing offenses. Burying your feelings won’t make them go away. They will only fester, grow and manifest themselves in a blow-out another day. Use effective communication to ensure that your needs are also being attended to in your marriage.
- Point-scoring. Yes, by all means, try to out-serve your spouse. Try to be the one who backs down first in an argument, and who forgives easiest. But don’t keep score! It’s really not a competition. You also want your spouse to do better, to grow closer to God, to enjoy the rewards of wisdom and humility. You are a team, both working to have the best marriage, so don’t see your spouse as your competitor!
It is a very simple principle. If you want to be alone or lonely in marriage then, by all means, keep your pride. Don’t compromise for anybody. Don’t invest in your relationship. You will eventually die…lonely and miserable. But if you want a happy marriage, filled with love and every good thing, let yourself be spilled generously on the altar of your marriage. Hold nothing good back. Forgive without keeping a record of wrongs. Give love unconditionally. And you will reap a great harvest of love in your marriage.
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