This is number 11 in a weekly series I began on December 21st/13 with a post called, “Married Forever?
I'd done a post yesterday referencing the human tendency to name as “love,” what is really nothing more than manipulation. That is, we are sometimes intentionally “good” to someone in the midst of a struggle, be it relational, or financial or addictions etc.. We call tell ourselves that these good behaviours on our part are motivated by love. The sticky part comes when, over the next few months or years, the person in need fails to change or improve. In that case many people become exasperated and pull the plug on what was termed love. The point I'm trying to make is that when we pull the plug, it wasn't love that was driving the “good” behaviours. It was an attempt to manipulated someone into change.
This pattern is seen no less often in marriage. We start off treating our spouses with kindness. We overlook their quirks – for awhile. In a few years however, we begin to think, “If I have to live with that behaviour for the rest of my life I'll go crazy.” And the quest to change another human being begins.
In a Biblical marriage that's not all bad. A Biblical marriage is a union of a man and a woman who have made a commitment before God to “love” each other until the death of one of them ends the union. In a Biblical marriage, this love entails submission to the other as well as a servant's heart. Just as there can be a subtle twist on love which is in reality manipulation, so too with serving one another. In fact, in a marriage there can be a double twist on serving. Here's what I mean.
The first twist is of course “serving” your spouse with the intent of motivating change. This is simply another case of manipulation. The second twist is more subtle. Most people know the parable of the Good Samaritan. A Jewish man is beaten and robbed. Two religious Jewish people see the man lying in the ditch and pass by on the other side of the road. Each individually ignores the man's plight. Then a “despised” Samaritan comes along and without hesitation he helps the injured Jewish man recover from his injuries. He pays for his medical care. He shows him true love. When discussing the parable, we usually talk about those who help or refuse to help and see if we can identify their lack of love in ourselves. Not often do we talk about what it's like for the Jewish man to be helped, regardless of whether it's by a Samaritan. Not often we we talk about our struggle with allowing someone to serve us.
In marriage it's one thing to serve your spouse. It's quite another to be served by your spouse. Secular people gnash their teeth in outrage at the very thought of submitting to and serving one another. That should not surprise. It's pride and corrupt self-love that keeps us from wanting to serve, even the one we claim to love. However it's also pride and corrupt self-love that bristles at the thought of being served by our spouse.
When we serve someone else, when we do good for someone else, it puts us in control. Our worldly (un loving) thinking senses that at some level, helping someone else puts that person in our debt. That kind of serving, like the pseudo love mentioned earlier in this post is also manipulation. People with this mindset keep score regarding who did what for whom. Men especially cringe at the thought of anyone doing for them and this includes their wives. This is pride saying, “I am not going to allow you to put me in your debt.”
The thing is, in a Biblical marriage, there is no such thing as debt. We serve Jesus by serving others – Period. Jesus gave His life for us so we give our life for Him. In a Biblical marriage we live out the Gospel in which there is no score keeping. Jesus freely loved us and we are to freely love one another.
In a Gospel marriage we aren't loved or served because we deserve it. Real love comes with no strings attached. Real love is gladly given. Real love is gladly received. It's a wonderful thing to allow yourself to be fully accepted, fully loved. In Biblical love we don't earn our love. And again, as men, as the husband, as the spiritual leader of the home, we take the lead in demonstrating servant leadership. We model for our spouse and children grace and mercy and love and kindness, patience and submission. We freely give love because real love is patient and kind. Real love doesn't envy or boast and it is not proud. It isn't rude or self-seeking. It isn't easily angered and it doesn't keep a record of wrongs. Real love doesn't delight in evil but takes joy in Truth. Real love always protects, always hopes, always trusts, always perseveres. Real love never fails.