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  • Love and Liberty

Twenty One Years

Twenty one years this month. That’s how long my wife and I have been married. My wife and I were not what we should have been when we met, but I thank God for the work he has done in our lives over the last twenty one years.

"Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord" (Proverbs 18:22).

"Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered" (1 Peter 3:7).

Two sources have been the primary means of teaching me and purifying me: the Word of God and my relationship with my wife. What the Bible teaches us in word, marriage teaches us through experience.

My relationship with my wife has taught me what it means to love.

“ is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10).

“Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:36-39).

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;” (Ephesians 5:25).

“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3).

To love someone is to seek his or her highest well being. It is to render to the person what is due him or her. It is to serve him or her. As John said above, we love God by keeping his commandments. We owe him our allegiance and obedience. Nothing or no one is to be placed above God in our lives. We see in this that love is not mere sentimental emotions, nor is it feelings of attraction that occurs between human beings, it is the commitment to seek a person’s well-being.

Babies are born and for the next several years all they know is what their flesh craves. They feel hunger and they cry until that hunger is satisfied. They become cold and they cry until they are warmed. They soil their diapers and they cry until they are clean. Before long, their awareness grows and they see colorful toys to chew on and play with. If something or someone gets in the way of their possession of the toy, they cry. As humans age, by God’s design, their appetites evolve and expand, but because most do not learn to discipline their flesh, they live selfish lives pursuing what feels good to them personally. Self is on the throne and it is clearly revealed in their lack of reverence for God and their interactions with others. People are only worth “my” time if they make “me” happy. Something is only worth doing if it brings “me” pleasure. All the while, duty toward God, toward parents, toward siblings, toward a spouse, toward others in general is disregarded. Selfishness is not something humans are born with, but it is something they acquire early on, and most never grow out of it. God warns us against it. The selfish person is not a righteous person. We learn of its consequences, in an experiential sense, through the marriage relationship.

There is no closer relationship than the marriage relationship. A husband and a wife love each other by rendering unto each other what God has commanded. Selfishness has dreadful consequences in the home. When a husband or wife thinks more about himself or herself than the spouse, there will be no peace. Nobody likes a tumultuous atmosphere, but that is exactly what ensues when selfishness is present in the home. When a husband is inconsiderate, or a wife is contentious, home life suffers. If there is anything between the husband and wife, it will create tension in the home, and it will affect their relationship with God.

Referencing 1 Peter 3:7 (see above), Albert Barnes wrote:

“It is implied that there might be such a way of living as effectually to hinder prayer; that is, to prevent its being offered aright, and to prevent any answer. This might occur in many ways. If the husband treated the wife unkindly; if he did not show her proper respect and affection; if there were bickerings, and jealousies, and contentions between them, there could be no hope that acceptable prayer would be offered. A spirit of strife; irritability and unevenness of temper; harsh looks and unkind words; a disposition easily to take offence, and an unwillingness to forgive, all these prevent a “return of prayers.” Acceptable prayer never can be offered in the tempest of passion, and there can be no doubt that such prayer is often “hindered” by the inequalities of temper, and the bickerings and strifes that exist in families. Yet how desirable is it that husband and wife should so live together that their prayers may not be hindered! How desirable for their own peace and happiness in that relation; how desirable for the welfare of children!”

In order for there to be peace between two people, both must be willing to deny themselves for the good of the other. That is not the way of the world, but it is God’s way. I have learned that to have peace, I must deny myself for the good of my wife. Moreover, my relationship with my wife is such that I have come to the point where I want her to be blessed and honored for her, not just because it will result in peace for me. It is customary to hear that forgiveness is for the person doing the forgiving rather than the person who needs forgiveness, but that rings hollow to me. While it’s true that letting go can benefit the person hanging on to anger, when a person truly repents of wrongdoing toward someone they have a relationship with, we are required to forgive lest the other person be swallowed up in sorrow. We should want the other person to feel restored. Forgiveness IS for the person who has sinned and repented. If we merely look at forgiveness as something for us when someone has sinned against us, we are falling short of love for the other person. I love my wife, and I want her to be blessed, honored, and happy, therefore I must deny myself and extend love and mercy to her, for her sake. When a husband and wife are willing to forgive one another following repentance, because they care for the well-being of the other person, they are loving one another.

The same is true in our duties toward all others. We should obey God because he is worthy of our obedience, and because obeying him is right and we want to please him. I would argue that doing something he commands for any other reason is not obedience, but mere legalism. Our interactions with others should be characterized by care and concern for them and their families. We must forsake selfishness. Selfishness is the antithesis of love.

My relationship with my wife has taught me the absurdity of hypocrisy.

“Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye” (Matthew 7:5).

“He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Mark 7:6).

“And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?” (Romans 2:3).

When we think of a hypocrite, we think of someone that pretends to be one thing while in reality he is something else, or someone that seeks to correct another person for what he himself is doing. No matter what we claim to be, God knows the truth about us, and so will our spouse. I am grateful for the intimate knowledge my wife and I have of each other. We have been able to correct each other on multiple occasions over the years. I have also learned that there have been moments where we have sought to correct the other person, yet we ourselves needed the same correction. Some people find it much easier to point out the faults of others as opposed to their own. We get upset with the way someone speaks to us, when we have done or are doing the same. We get upset when we feel like the other person is not listening to us, when we ourselves are not listening to the other person. It is very important that we judge ourselves, and correct ourselves, for only then will we be able to see clearly enough to seek to turn someone else from the error of his or her way.

Christ deserves the rewards of his suffering, and Christians are to be his voice, his hands, and his feet in the world. Yet the hypocrisy of many professing Christians turns many away from Christ. They will rant about the sanctity of life, and preach against abortion, but then support the killing of innocent men, women, and children in foreign countries. Those who do are hypocrites. They will decry homosexual “marriage”, and rightfully so, yet they don’t preach against divorce, adultery, and heterosexual fornication with the same vehemence. It is not just the State that has denigrated marriage by claiming there is such a thing as homosexual marriage; people in churches denigrate marriage too, albeit in different ways. Professing Christians will complain that Governments ignore the Word of God, but in churches they do the same: wives and mothers are not keepers at home, and the Word of God is blasphemed because of their disobedience. Men do not make their homes a Christ-ruled household, they allow filth into their homes through the television, and they put worldly ambitions before the pursuit of holiness. Churches promote patriotism or nationalism rather than the Kingdom of God. Pastors are more like facility administrators than they are servants of God. They pick and choose what portions of the Word they will follow and they wonder why people consider the churches to be filled with hypocrites. No one responds well to a hypocrite.

My relationship with my wife has strengthened me in the battle between the will and the flesh.

“For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:17).

Expounding on this verse, Charles Finney said:

“This passage has been greatly misunderstood, or else the Apostle has contradicted himself. Leaving out of view the 16th verse, and that the design of the 17th is to assign the grounds of the assertion in the 16th, many of the expounders of the Scriptures have understood the 17th to declare, that in consequence of the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, persons who really wish to be holy cannot. So it has all along been generally understood. Now I repeat, that if this interpretation be true, the Apostle contradicts himself. The 16th positively asserts that those who walk in the Spirit shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. This interpretation of the 17th verse, makes him say, that in consequence of the opposition between the flesh and the Spirit, those who walk in the Spirit, after all, cannot but fulfill the lusts of the flesh. But this interpretation entirely overlooks the fact, that the 17th verse is designed to establish the assertion made in the 16th. In the 16th, the Apostle says, 'walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.' Why? 'Because,' says he, 'the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other,' that is, they are opposites. What then? Why the obvious inference, 'that ye (that is, who walk in the Spirit,) cannot do the things that ye would,' in case you were not walking in the Spirit. In other words, you who are walking in the Spirit cannot fulfill the lusts of the flesh. The simple principle is, that you cannot walk after the Spirit, and fulfill the lusts of the flesh at the same time, because it is impossible to perform two opposites at once.”

As human beings, God has created us with certain fleshly appetites. These appetites are good, and serve a good purpose, but they can selfishly be misused. Because we have these appetites, temptation is a part of living. Even the Lord Jesus was tempted. This means his flesh was affected by the same temptations as any other person, but he was without sin. The Lord Jesus never satisfied his human appetites unlawfully. We have. Being susceptible to temptation does not mean we have a sinful nature, or Christ himself would have had a sinful nature. Being susceptible to temptation means we have been created with certain appetites and that God has created objects that can appeal to those appetites. It teaches us that being righteous or sinful is dependent on our choices, not the nature we were born with. We corrupt our nature when we sin.

The Bible repeatedly warns men against sensuality. Men are told to flee fornication, to be careful what they set before their eyes, and to bring all their thoughts into subjection to Christ. The Lord Jesus warned against lusting after, or coveting, any woman that is not the man’s wife. It has been said that the female form is a temptation, or an idol, for both men and women. Men are tempted to lust after women and women are tempted to be lusted after. My commitment to my wife has kept me on the straight and narrow in this regard, for I have coveted no other woman and have not pursued with any other what belongs solely within the marriage union. However, one day God brought me face to face with the fact that I have sinned with my eyes and my thoughts. Merely seeing something is not a sin, and a mere thought is not a sin, but one can certainly sin with his eyes or his mind. Due to fleshly appetites, and a world that is inundated with temptations, men must discipline themselves. They must avoid what the world churns out through television, movies, music, magazines, and the internet. As Finney went on to explain after the introduction to his sermon shared above, Christians do not struggle with sin, for Christians are those who have forsaken sin. They of course can be overcome by temptation, and the Christian will be convicted and must repent, otherwise he will be on a ruinous path. The Christian warfare, then, has to do with temptations of the flesh, not habitual sin. If we walk after the Spirit we will not be ruled by the flesh. If we serve the flesh we will not be walking in the Spirit.

Even men that love their wives can err with their eyes or the mind, and they must bring both into subjection to Christ. Because of my respect for Christ, and my love for my wife, I have been purged of sins of the eyes and the mind. These sins may be brief and occasional, and men may not always realize how wrong they are in this area, but when a person is pursuing holiness, the Spirit will make him aware of the dross in his life, and being confronted with the realities of his thought life can hit hard. A man then must choose. Will he make excuses and continue down the same path? Or will he repent, accept the purging, and press forward in holiness? Many do not perfect holiness in the fear of God because they get to a point where they run from the light instead of stepping more fully into it. To slink away from the light back into the darkness is to imperil one’s soul. We are judged according to the knowledge we have, and to whom much is given, much is required. I thank God for his piercing light, and I thank my wife for the purifying effect of our marriage. Next to the Lord, she is the main reason why I am the man that I am today. I cherish her, and always will.

My relationship with my wife has taught me the importance of living for today.

“Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16).

I am a big picture kind of person. This serves me well at times, and at other times it can cause me to miss out on opportunities in the moment. In both word and deed my wife has taught me to do differently. I’ve had big plans in the past. I am an adventuresome soul. I want to have this in place and that in place and I have gotten irritated before when those plans were hindered. Many times in fact. But if our peace depends on plans coming to fruition, we will spend most of our time being disappointed. My wife has told me more than once just to enjoy my time with her “today.” It is good advice. It’s not that making plans is bad, but if we are missing out on the opportunities of today because we are pressing so hard to make those goals a reality, we are messing up. Every moment of every day is a moment we will never get back. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow is not guaranteed. I must enjoy every waking moment with my wife and not cry over spilled milk or what may or may not occur. I must cherish sitting with her, holding her hand, while we read and sip coffee. With my wife, I must cherish watching the children play and hearing of the successes of my older children. I must cherish the little moments that I have with my wife every day, and not worry about tomorrow. My wife likes to tell me not to borrow trouble, because it is something I do very well. I worry. I shouldn’t, but I do. I must follow her example in this.

The Word of God speaks to us about redeeming the time. As Adam Clarke said: “(Buy) up those moments which others seem to throw away; steadily improving every present moment…” Albert Barnes reminds us this means to “rescue or recover our time from waste; to improve it for great and important purposes. "This is how to we should relate to the Lord and the time we have in this life. How much time do we waste, worrying about tomorrow? How much time do we waste pursing selfish interests? How much time do we waste on pursuing non-essential material possessions? We should be pursuing the Lord, pursuing holiness, pursuing the well-being of others, for the time is coming when we won’t be able to do so. What will those things we have given our time to matter when that time comes? Nothing. We give ourselves to things that mean nothing, and that can profit us nothing, while we squander away the opportunities that matter. We must redeem the time that we have.

My wife is the greatest gift of my life and I will never, under any circumstances, give my heart and life to another person for as long as I live.

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