August 26 - Ephesians 5:25-31

Monday, August 26, 2013

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 

It seems funny to me that Paul felt the need to write these words to people who had fallen in love with Jesus Christ. If we are commanded by Jesus to love God and love others, how is that this is a problem?

Jesus’ teaching on love was all about sacrifice. In any relationship we have, our love for each other should be sacrificial. Good relationships take work, whether it is with a parent, a sibling, a friend, a child, or a spouse.

When I was growing up, we were the epitome of a happy family … in public. No one saw the flaws, the arguments, the callous words, the disrespect or the pain that came from living in the same household with five very strong-willed, independent people.  Dad’s job as a pastor was extremely stressful and no matter how hard he tried to contain it, negative emotions splattered all over his family when he got home. We knew he loved us, but there were plenty of times that it didn't seem he liked us very much – and there was nothing any of us had done to push him over the edge. It was simply a product of dealing with hurting and angry people all day long.

He treated mom quite poorly sometimes and I will tell you there was a point in their marriage where they had to step back because divorce was the next move. He had quit acting as if he loved her. In fact, some of our close friends clearly remember things falling apart at about seventeen years of marriage.  Friends and family alike still laugh about Dad exploding on Mom one day telling her on their anniversary that living with her had been “seventeen years of pure hell.”  It was funny not long after it happened because it was so ridiculous, but at that very moment, in the household with five completely stricken, frightened people – those words signified how far they had gotten from understanding what love was all about.

Today those words “seventeen years of pure hell” are a trigger for a moment in time, a moment of change. We teased Dad after that because it was the only thing to do. He immediately regretted saying those words, apologized to everyone and the relief and release were palpable. For years afterwards, merely saying “seventeen years” would cause him to chuckle a little with embarrassment and admit his own craziness again.

So, though it seems as if Christians should have it all together and love each other unconditionally, whether it is a spouse, a child, friend, sibling or parent, the truth is that we all need to be constantly reminded that love is never about ourselves. It is sacrificial, it must be continuous, it must occur without judgment and be filled with forgiveness.