Recently, I performed a wedding for some dear friends of mine. As I was preparing, it got me thinking again about all the passages that the Bible instructs us about how to love each other as husband and wife. There is good wisdom written in there – I am sure you may have heard some of these Bible passages in a wedding or two. But what struck me about God’s instructions for married couples is that there is a vast amount of wisdom directed at those couples that isn’t specified only for married couples! In fact, if most of us put into practice, as singles, the wisdom offered on how to love one another, I imagine that most, if not all, marriages would succeed.
For example, here is the passage chosen by the couple to be read at their wedding:
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.” - 1 John 4:7-19 (ESV)
This is such a rich passage and I would like to unpack it for you as I did for that couple and their wedding guests that day. Here is what God through Jesus would want us all to know!
God created all of us in His image, for His purpose. But we all have decided, in one way or another, at some point, to reject God’s purpose and live for ourselves. Make our own plan. That created a huge problem, since God is holy and perfect and we have abandoned His plan, it created a gap, a separation between Him and us. Our choice, to reject God’s plan, even once, rendered us as non-perfect, blemished. Unable to be in the presence of holiness because of our choices.
I don’t know about you, but when I have been rejected or hurt, my temptation is to reject that person back. Protect myself, tell myself that I am fine without them. Stubbornly build a wall to keep that separation.
Unlike us, God is not stubborn. Even when we do not look to Him at all, He ran to us, by sending His son into this world. His son, Jesus, came and carried out God’s plan perfectly, without blemish. So Jesus, because of how he lived His life was able to return to the Holy perfect place in the presence of His father.
But that was not God’s plan. God knew he had to be the perfect judge, that is who He is, holding all things in this world together. So He could not be anything but who He is and always will be: fair, just. The only option to remove our blemish and still be the fair ruler of the universe, was to accept a substitute to receive the punishment earned for all those that have rejected His purpose.
But that substitute, in order to be a complete substitute in trade, would have to perfect, unblemished, in order for that sacrifice to blot out all our blemishes. But that would mean that only a perfect example of living out God’s plan could fully substitute in our place and receive the full penalty of what was earned. Living in our own plan, no matter how good, is short of perfection and earns eternal separation from our Holy God.
So God’s great heart of love, in painful love, offered His son to take our place of separation so He could be with us again. Because of His great love, because He longs to be near to us, He was willing to sacrifice what He did not have to sacrifice. But in full response of love, to save us from ourselves, He willingly loved us when we deserved it the least and when it would cost Him the most!
Even when you are right, you must not be stubborn, but instead sacrifice everything to save your spouse. Run to her. Run to him. This is the redeeming love that Jesus Christ shows us.
Then I told my dear friends, standing at the altar, “In the same way, you must reflect that sacrifice in your marriage. Even when you are right, you must not be stubborn, but instead sacrifice everything to save your spouse. Run to her. Run to him. This is the redeeming love that Jesus Christ shows us. This is the love that we are called to live out in marriage. As we just heard read, ‘if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.’ This is your privilege to do for each other. This is your pledge, your vow. These vows are declarations of Christ-filled love to each other, before God, and hold the greatest weight.”
Time and time again, I have found that our intentions are pure, but our attempts will be flawed. Thankfully, Jesus has redeemed all of those flaws by closing the gap of separation to all who confess that Jesus is the son of God and receive the Gift of eternal presence and life with God. Then God declared it so, when He raised Jesus from the dead displaying to the world that He was fully satisfied with His son’s sacrifice to give this Gift to all who would receive it!
So truly, the best wedding gift we will ever receive is the Gift of Jesus being displayed through our mate as God’s representative of sacrifice. I pray this to be so in your marriage. If not, we need to ask God to transform our heart into a heart that is full of love, the kind of love that gave up everything. Easy to say but hard to do. Lets us be in constant prayer that this change would happen and marriages transformed.