Thursday, May 10, 2012

In this article I am by no means saying that these are the only two essential attitudes that can make a marriage function. But what I am saying is that with the many commands and attitudes that must be enveloped in a Christian marriage, these two must be evidenced. The two key attitudes that I am referring to are self denial and self-giving. Allow me to deal with each one individually so we may be those who have these essential attitudes in marriage for the honor and glory of God.

The first essential attitude which I wish to bring to light is that of self-denial. This is, perhaps, one of the least found attributes that we find in contemporary marriages – even “Christian” ones. Self-denial instantly brings a shriek of discomfort because, at its heart, it means that we lower self and our own self-interests below those of another, namely, our wife.

While discussing what love really is and how it is described in the Scriptures with some friends before a recent wedding I attended, we were drawn to 1 Corinthians 13. In that chapter Paul writes a simple phrase, yet we discussed it for quite some time: does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered. The phrase I want to highlight here is “it does not seek its own.” The ESV has: “it does not insist on its own way.” I like that rendering. The Greek is translated (literally): “it is not seeking the things of itself.” This idea of love inherently demands that one understands that love considers the interests and desires of another as more important and having more weight than my own. That does not mean, however, that as the husband, I sit back and let my wife make all the decisions and be the authority in the home. Yet what it does mean, I believe, is that we, as husbands, can be those who have the authoritative voice in the home (demanded upon us by God Himself) yet we can still consider the interests of our wives and what she desires and wants as more important than my own.

Taking this to an extreme – though not missing the point, here – is the idea of 1 Cor 7:33: but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife. The last phrase has captured my attention since the morning of my wedding day. I remember going on a walk to a nearby lake and dwelling upon this phrase of how I must be consumed, or “concerned” (or literally “worried”; “consumed with”) the notion of pleasing my wife. The idea here of pleasing is how he can make her happy. Yes, happy. Life is not about being “happy,” per se, yet I do argue that we as husbands must be concerned with the happiness of our wives. And I have this verse to support that view. Sure it is in the context of the husband being unable to devote as much time, effort and energy to the ministry as, say, a single-person who could devote his entire life to vocational ministry without distractions. Yet this is not the case with a married man.

Along these lines of self-denial, I also wish to bring a Scripture to the forefront which must not be overlooked: Ephesians 5:28-29   So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;  29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,. Husbands here are to deny selves in that we love our wives as we love ourselves. This is a simple comparative clause. The point is simple and understandable. We all love ourselves, inherently. It is easy to do so. When we’re hungry, we eat. When we are thirsty, we get a cup of water. When we are tired, we sleep. When we are uncomfortable, we fix it. It is simple. We ought to be as concerned with our wives and their desires and interests as we are with our own. If we truly were those who were characterized by self-denial in all that we did, we would see a radical change, I believe, in our marriages.

The second essential attitude that I want to make known is that of self-giving. Really, self-giving goes hand in hand with self-denial which we just talked about. One cannot give of himself if he is not consumed with denying himself.

Of course, here, the greatest example we have is God the Father. The idea of love in the scriptures inherently carries with it the notion of giving and self-sacrifice. Think of John 3:16:  "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. Because God loved the world and his plan of redemption had been planned from eternity past, he gave his son. God the Father is the greatest example of self-giving.

The Son, the Lord Jesus Christ also exemplified this self-giving attitude (and action!). In Titus 3, Paul notes: Titus 2:13-14  13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,  14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. So Jesus Christ is the blessed hope who loved His own so much that he gave of himself. What an example we have from our Savior!

Finally, the Holy Spirit is also an example of One who gives of himself. John 6:63  63 "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. The idea here is that the Spirit is the one who activates the sacrifice of Christ and brings it home to the believer. It is the Holy Spirit who gives this life. He is life and gives this life to the believer who comes to Christ in faith.

In sum, I argue here that these attitudes of self-denial and self-giving are essential for every marriage to exemplify to the fullest the awesome and intimate relationship of Christ and His church. As husbands, may we be men who are not only possessing but those who are characterized by self-denial and self-giving for our wives whom the Lord has so graciously and mercifully given to us. To God be the glory.

Your pastor and friend,

Geoffrey R. Kirkland

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