The Marriage Issue (Part 7): The Love of a Man

JacknJilAnnouncements Nov post 2Our modern rules of culture invariably intersect with the logic of the word of God. There’s always a raison d’être behind God’s injunctions. Everything is purposed, God is not random. And God deals in eternal principles. We deal in temporal realities. The things we ordinarily take for granted tend to have great significance and attract grave spiritual consequences. For example, when Esau sold his birthright, he violated the law of sacredness. Because he despised the sacred, the Bible calls him profane. (Hebrews 12:16). Unless we choose to view marriage through the lens of God, we cannot appreciate its signification.

You cannot really understand some of God’s rules on marriage without a juxtaposition of the marriage of the Christ. For example the rule of headship won’t make sense to you. Why is the man the designate head in marriage? Men are not heads of women. All are created equal, endowed by their creator with unalienable rights. But the law of governmental headship holds in marriage. These are heady spiritual stuff. They transcend eras. And the law of governmental headship only holds in marriage. It does not hold in a corporation or in general.

God also respects cultural conventions where they overlap with church administration as long as his principles are sacrosanct. The issues in the Corinthian church were questions of overlap of societal order and cultural convention with church. Ordinarily, God does not upturn societal convention unless it is fundamentally at variance with his principles. Indeed he will defend them, reinforcing them with his word. God loves order. God is government. For example the injunction about the covering of head by women is only locatable within the cultural order of Corinth. But the spiritual fundamentals still hold. Adam is the designate agency of God’s governmental rule. And so the basis of the designated headship of a home is not based on anything inherent in maleness. But according to the order of creation, the man was created first. And he was made in the image of his God. There was a reason for that. It’s to enable the man stand in a representative governmental capacity for his God. And so he stands in the place of Christ in marriage, which really is an onerous responsibility. The man lording it over his wife has no understanding of the concept of manhood. Christ never lords it over his bride.

The standard of love required of men by God in marriage is extreme. It’s sacrificial love. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” (Ephesians 5:25). Read that sideways, or upside down and it will still come out extreme. Sacrificial love is ultimate love. The Message Translation is even more illustrative: “Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church – a love marked by giving, not getting.” This is where the idea of a man going into transactional marriage with a lady to extract money from her fails the test. It is fundamentally contrary to God’s conception of love and marriage. There’s a huge demand placed on men in marriage by God. Sacrificial love is a huge demand. If you don’t see yourself sacrificing for her, going all out for her, then don’t marry her. You won’t meet God’s standard. The kind of love expected of men for their wives is maximal. You go all out.

Then Paul wrote further, and it bears reading and paying attention: “Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring out the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant in holiness. That is how husbands ought to love their wives.” In other words, the standard of love for a man in marriage is the way Christ loves his bride, the church. It’s a model with distinct headers. We will look at those headers; contextualise them since it’s a model.

According to the Bible model the husband ought to regularly “toast” his wife – “his words evoke her beauty.” (Ephesians 5:25 MSG). Now here’s the challenge in that. The church is made up of individuals – you and me. And we can be ugly with sin. And yet Jesus holds an imagery of his bride that disdains the granulation and is not particulate. As far as Christ is concerned the church has beauty, despite the fact our individual lives say otherwise. It’s a conceptual faith, an idealistic conception of beauty, totally romantic and “blind”. In the same manner, the granular shortcomings of a wife should not detract the evocation of her beauty. She’s not perfect. She can never be. A husband knows that and still evokes her beauty, to bring out the best in her. It is therefore incongruent for a man to engage in discussion of the ugly details in his wife’s life with strangers. Those words don’t evoke her beauty. They evoke her ugliness. And they publish them to strangers. In a marriage everyone else is a stranger except God. All third parties are strangers, including parents. To evoke means to bring a memory, feeling, image, into the mind.

In order to evoke her beauty, a man must regurgitate for mental consumption hagiographic imageries of his wife – a beautiful dress she wore… that first kiss, the first date, a loving gesture, an intimacy, a naughtiness… It is a momentariness of the brain, a frozen bit of time. These momentos though momentary generate momenta. If you want to meet the Biblical standard you must chew the cud of such memories. You’re a romantic cow. Repetitively regurgitating those feelings and memories makes it easy to overlook her imperfections. And those memories then constitute your imagery of her. It’s why she’ll be perfect though woefully imperfect, like you. The problem is, we spend time regurgitating memories of the pains, the troubles, the disappointments… These are not beauty invocations. They’re invocations of ugliness. And God says that’s not his model.

A man in particular ought to learn to forgive and forget. Or he cannot meet God’s standard of love in marriage. As long as you keep a record of wrongs… a ledger of sin, your wife will always be abhorrent. Forgive. Without a continual ritual of forgiveness and forgetfulness, a marriage becomes an ugly human experiment. Put the past behind you. Stop the computation of transgression. Stop demanding sin tax. Stop fabricating historic chain linkages of causes of fights in the past with those in the present. Stop building a case against your wife, seeking and gathering corroborative mental evidence.

A marriage full of unforgiveness is a very bitter marriage full of bitter people full of raw emotions. That stops every co-operation in the marriage, and so prayers go unanswered. And the couple loses out on the power of natural partnership inherent in marriage. “If two of you on earth agree, harmonize together, make a symphony together about whatever they may ask… it will come to pass and be done for them by my Father in Heaven.” (Matthew 18:19 Amp).

© Leke Alder