Alright. The funny thing about this blog is that I write as if people really read it and it’s going to change the world. I am realistic enough to know that isn’t true. But writing about these things helps me tremendously as I process and think through them. This post has been particularly hard for me to write. I think that’s because of all of the reasons to get married this is the hardest for me to swallow and I trust God the least in this area.
Today I’m writing about reason number two: To show that God is able to work in relationships and restore sinful people in such a powerful way that a lifelong commitment between two sinful people is not only possible, but can be enjoyable, full of love, and can make the hard work of relationships incredibly worthwhile.
First off let me just reiterate, I don’t really believe this. When I say “believe” I mean something different than “know.” The Lord taught me a few years ago through my study of Biblical Counseling that we live what we believe to be true. So our beliefs aren’t found in what we say we think is true but in how we live. As you can tell by my recent post , I don’t like “messy” relationships. I don’t like conflict, I don’t like awkwardness, I don’t like feeling uncomfortable, and I don’t like working hard. Thus why this post is particularly hard for me. The second a relationship gets hard there is a trigger in me that wants to run away. As I’ve matured (and I use the word “matured” very loosely and only in comparison to who I used to be and not what actual maturity looks like) I’ve learned to fight this and have found that relationships will inevitably be hard at some juncture and that’s okay.
This world has seen it’s fair share of broken relationships. We’ve watched two people who at one time loved each other so much they were willing to dedicate their lives to each other grow to hate each other so much that they destroy each other and the family they created together. We’ve seen parents scream and curse at their children. Watched parents walk right out of their children’s lives, or even worse, decide to end their children’s lives by aborting them before they even have a chance to be born. We’ve seen verbal, physical, and sexual abuse and rape. We’ve watched real life families who hate each other- who yell, and throw things, and curse at each other. We’ve also watched as families sit in stone cold silence and even though they sit in the same room might as well be countries apart from each other. We’ve seen so much of this that relationships don’t seem to be worth the cost.
This is where faith comes in. Relationships such as the ones previously described are a result of the fall. They are a result of sinful people living with one another. The beauty of the cross is that through it we are restored to the image of God that we were created in in the Garden of Eden. God’s image was marred at the fall but not destroyed. Now God draws sinful people to Himself, provides them with salvation through His Son, and begins to restore His image in them through the process of sanctification. This means that any believer has every resource he or she needs for healthy, functioning, loving relationships.
If you doubt this, look to the cross. In Ephesians 1 Paul begins to pray for the church at Ephesus that they may know “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places…” (v. 19-20). If you have a chance you should to back and read the entire passage. It’s awesome. But these two verses show that the cross gives us every confidence we need to enter into to deep, messy, satisfying, God honoring, hurtful, complicated, costly relationships. The same power that raised Christ from the dead is working in us who believe. Our confidence in God enables us to walk into these relationships and this should set us apart in a drastic way from the unbelieving world.
The problem is that healthy, functioning, loving relationships don’t come easily and don’t happen without their fair share of hard work. God is at work within us to will and to do His good pleasure….but we are working out our faith with fear and trembling. God’s grace produces the grit of hard work. God honoring relationships require dying to self, confronting sin, being more concerned about someone else’s welfare than your own, being honest in communication, confessing sin, sacrificial generosity with time and money, creativity, severe discipline of one’s thinking…..just to start. They come at a cost.
So what? What makes costly relationships God-honoring? Hard things aren’t necessarily honoring to God just because they are hard. But costly relationships are God-honoring for a few reasons.
First, that for the believer, our life is about being like our God AKA being holy, sanctified, Christlike, set apart, righteous etc. Christ Himself has set the example for costly relationships in sacrificing His own life so that we could be reconciled to God the Father, and God the Father willingly gave His Son and subjected Him to such pain so that He could be in a relationship with us. We are like Christ we when sacrifice ourselves and that which we hold dear for the sake of others (Phil 2:1-9; 1 John 4:9-12; Isaiah 53:3-10).
Second, because they are commanded by God. What is the first and greatest commandment? Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40; Mark 12:28-31). Galatians clarifies that our freedom from the law in Christ should not be used to serve our flesh but to serve one another in love. It says that the entire law is fulfilled in this: love your neighbor as yourself (Gal. 5:13-14). If you look up “one another” in the new testament you will find command after command after command detailing how we are obligated to others in relationships. Married or single we are called to relationships with one another. We were created for them. To try to skirt around them is to disobey the God who created us and knows what’s best for us.
Third, through the suffering that relationships inevitably bring we fill up what is lacking in Christ’s sufferings (Col. 1:24). How is anything lacking in Christ’s sufferings, you ask? They are lacking only in that Christ is not here to suffer now before our eyes. We, then, are the extension of Christ’s sufferings to the world. We don’t add to the value, worth, or sufficiency of Christ’s sufferings but we display them to the world that Christ no longer dwells in the flesh in. How can we suffer if we don’t have human relationships deep enough to hurt?
Marriage is not to be feared. Relationships are not to be avoided. God is to be trusted. And oftentimes that means living like you believe Him even if you don’t. Sometimes we have to make decisions to trust God with our feet when our hearts aren’t actually there yet. That’s called faith. God is in the business of redeeming us and working in us to accomplish what we could never do on our own. We can pursue marriage and enter into it with the strong confidence that God is at work in our relationships and will give us the strength, grace, and courage we need to spend a lifetime loving someone for His name’s sake.