I’ve spent a lot of time – I mean a lot of time – thinking and talking about and telling others about God’s design for marriage. One of the things I’ve realized along the way is that if you asked people what the purpose of marriage is, whether they’d be honest enough to admit it or not, they usually have “my personal happiness” pretty close to, if not at the top of their list.
Gary Thomas, the author of the book Sacred Marriage, posed a provocative question as the subtitle of his book. He asked “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”
I actually remember when that thought first hit me. On a Sunday night many years ago, we were hosting our small group at our house, and I was supposed to lead the discussion that particular evening. The subject was marriage and I was doing some reading and preparing our discussion questions. Mary Ann and I had been married for about a decade at this point, so I wasn’t a rookie. But that doesn’t mean I had a finely developed theology of marriage.
As I read passages from scripture as I put my notes together for that particular small group meeting, I found myself thinking “this marriage thing is bigger than I realized. It’s about more than me!”
You’d think I would have figured that out after maybe a year or two. But I’m clearly a slow learner.
At the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember marriage events, we explain that marriage is about couples reflecting the image of God in how we come together and live together as husband and wife. It’s about the bond of companionship that forms between us as we cleave to one another. And it’s about creating the right context for bearing and raising children.
God’s pattern for marriage is to bring two different people together and make them one. Just as iron and carbon come together to create steel, God brings a man and a woman together in the unique bond that is matrimony.
One of the places in scripture where God gives us a definition of what oneness in relationships should look like is at the beginning of Philippians 2. Although the context is not marriage specifically, but relationships in the body of Christ, the picture of oneness drawn for us in this text helps us understand what marital oneness should look like.
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Philippians 2:1–2).
The Bible is not talking about sameness when it talks about oneness. Unity and oneness involve bringing different people with different gifts and different ideas about how life should be done together and uniting them around a set of common convictions or beliefs that transcend their differences. Unity comes when what unites a cople is more important than their differences.
Pastor and author Kent Hughes says what the Bible is describing is not some kind of “a vacuous togetherness but a oneness fraught with dynamic purpose.” One Bible translation describes this kind of unity as being “intent on one purpose.”
So how do we cultivate oneness in marriage? Philippians 2 goes on to give us a road map. For oneness to occur, one specific character quality is going to be essential. We’re going to have to cultivate a self-emptying humility. We have to learn how to declare war on our pride and self-centeredness.
Oneness and pride don’t mix. That’s why as the Bible addresses the goal of oneness, it maps out in very practical terms what it takes to move toward oneness.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit,” he says, “but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
As I have spoken to and listened to married couples for more than a quarter of a century, I’ve come to the conclusion that if we could learn to apply those two verses consistently in our marriages, most of the difficulties we experience in marriage would evaporate. Humility is the foundation of oneness.
Paul is not proposing a false view of humility that thinks other people are better than we are. He is saying that we should regard the needs of others as higher than our own.
In fact, real love doesn’t begin until someone else’s needs are more important than your own. Jesus said it this way – greater love has no man than this, that He lays down his life for his friends.
Bible teacher Gordon Fee says that reading the first four verses of Philippians 2 “over and over again with prayerful hearts that are inclined toward obedience, could go a long way toward curing the ills that beset our Christian communities—including that most fragile of institutions, the Christian family, which after all forms the nucleus, or basic unit, of any larger Christian community.”
Fee says that we can often figure out how to “get along” with friends at work on in church because we don’t have to live with them and because we see them less often. But it’s different with our spouse and our children. In the home, he says, we have to learn how to walk in humility.
“The cure is the same for all: in humility before God, each of us putting the interests of others ahead of our own, rather than constantly looking at the other to supply our needs.”
Does that describe you? Would others say about you that you regularly put the needs of others ahead of your own? Would your spouse and your children say they know they are loved because you often lay down your life for them?
Let me add an important disclaimer here. Putting the needs of others ahead of your own needs is not the same as catering to the desires or wishes of your spouse. There is a difference between humbly serving each other and accommodating sinfulness or selfishness in your spouse. You are not loving someone well if you are enabling or choosing not to confront their ongoing sinful behavior. Laying down your life for your spouse sometimes means confronting activities or behaviors that are self-destructive.
As you seek to serve your spouse, how you serve should be based on what is best for him or her in the long run, not necessarily what will make your spouse happy in the moment. Being humble doesn’t mean the other person always gets what he or she wants. It means you put their needs ahead of your own.
Your marriage is about more than your happiness. It’s about two becoming one, through humility and self-emptying. And when our friends and family members see a marriage like that, they get a glimpse of the God who created marriage in the first place.
Do your kids keep asking you “do we get to go to Summer Kids Fest today? I be they do. It’s still a week away, so you have a great opportunity to help them learn how to develop patience.
Here are the SKF details:
Right now, the 10 Day forecast for Little Rock is calling for scattered thunderstorms on Tuesday, June 25. Let’s hope they scatter to some other part of central Arkansas! That’s because we’ll planning to get everyone together next Tuesday for our church wide Pizza at the Pool party. We’ll meet at the Pleasant Valley swimming pool on Arkansas Valley Drive at 6:00, and the pool is ours until 8:30 or until the kids are worn out! We’re providing the pizza (we’ll be taste testing the new Hungry Howie’s flavored crust pizza!) You bring water or soft drinks for yourself, and invite your friends to come be part of the fun.
I’ve had a lot of people asking me about the move in date for our new building. It’s a moving target (pun intended). We think we might be in as early as mid August. And we have September 8 scheduled for the formal dedication service. We have some big plans in the works for that day.
But first things first. A few months ago, before the walls were up and the windows were in, we went to the building one Sunday after church and filled up the framing beams with Bible verses.
And a week from this Sunday, we’re going again.
This time, we’ll meet at the church at 6:30. We’ll spend some time singing and worshipping. We’ll spend some time talking about our transition to the new building and our plans for our dedication Sunday. And we’ll walk through the building praying, asking God to multiply the good work that He’s done in our church over the last 11 years and allowing us to bring our focus on Jesus and the gospel to new friends and neighbors.
The Hymns and Prayers time will take about an hour. We won’t have child care, but we’d love to have you come and bring the kids. You might want to bring a few folding chairs too. Or plan to stand a lot.
This is an exciting time for our church. An exciting opportunity for us to love and serve new friends that we expect God will be bringing our way.
We need to be praying. A lot.
I hope you’ll be in town that day and be able to join us for this special evening at our new church home as we think and dream and hope for our future.
One other note about the new building, just to set expectations…
Did you ever have book shelves in college that looked like this?
I did. I was in college. I didn’t have a lot of money. So I did what everyone else was doing. I improvised.
As we prepare to move in to our new church home, I expect we’ll be doing some improvising. As much as we’d love to have a fully furnished living room or to buy new furnishings for classrooms or the nursery, our budget is pretty tight.
You may remember the “move in wish list” I shared with you at our church business meeting back in March. The total for all the items on that list was about $230,000. So far, we’ve received more than $120,000 in giving for those items, including gifts last week of $20,000 and $2,500! We are so grateful for those who have made it possible for us to move forward with new sound equipment, new projectors for our worship center, new equipment to support the live streaming of our worship service and lighting for the platform area.
We don’t talk much about money at Redeemer. God has been so faithful to supply our needs over the years. You have been a very generous congregation.
And while we’d love to be able to do some decorating and buy some new furnishings before we move in, if we need to go with cinder blocks and some leftover lumber for bookshelves, we can make that work.
If you’ve been thinking about giving to our building fund, now is the time. Sooner rather than later. You can give on line by clicking here. Or you can write “building fund” in the memo line of your check and put it in the offering box at church.
And if you haven’t been thinking about a building fund gift, would you take time this week and think about it? Pray about it? Ask God what He would have you do. And then do as He leads.
If you have questions about the building or about the list of items still on our wish list, talk to Tim Friesen. Send an email to email@example.com.
In our study of 1 John, we’ve already seen that when we sin, God wants us to confess our sins to Him, and that He has promised to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
But now, in chapter 3, John says “no one born of God makes a practice of sinning” (1 John 3:9).
Does that mean someone who is battling a habitual sin isn’t a Christian?
We’ll explore that on Sunday.
See you in church.
Soli Deo Gloria!