By Stephen Yuille
A while back, this statement from F. F. Bruce really grabbed my attention: “It is in the closest and most familiar relationships of daily living that the reality of one’s Christian profession will normally be manifest.” Isn’t this stating the obvious? Yes it is, but sometimes we need to remind ourselves of the blatantly obvious. Many of us give the impression (consciously or not) that the heart-beat of the Christian faith is found in solving theological puzzles, pursuing grandiose experiences, enduring great hardships, mastering spiritual disciplines, or engaging in cutting-edge ministries. While I’m not disparaging any of those things, I want to make it clear that they don’t represent the heart-beat of the Christian faith. This place of distinction belongs to what F. F. Bruce calls “the closest and most familiar relationships of daily living.”
As a married man, what’s my closest relationship? This isn’t rocket science. The answer is obvious: my wife. For me, this reality sheds fresh light on a well-worn portion of Scripture: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). Love left a glorious crown, walked in our flesh, and took our infirmities. Love gave sight to the blind, speech to the mute, hearing to the deaf, strength to the lame, and life to the dead. Love was hungry, thirsty, and weary. Love was despised and rejected. Love had nowhere to lay his head. Love was sorrowful unto death. Love was betrayed, arrested, and condemned. Love was scourged with cords and pierced with nails. Love climbed a shameful cross. Love bore our guilt and shame. That’s how “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
Acutely aware of the disparity between this high calling and my utter inability, I find myself praying—a lot. That’s a good thing. Recently, I stumbled upon a prayer by George Swinnock—a seventeenth century English Puritan (of the Presbyterian variety, if that means anything to you). Now, an important caveat: I’m not endorsing everything Swinnock ever wrote about men, women, and marriage. If he were alive today, I’d take issue with him on a point or two. But, that being said, his prayer really resonated with me. I trust you’ll see why in the following extract—heavily edited for all those unfamiliar with olde engliſh.
“Father, you have commanded me to love my wife as Christ loves his bride—the church. His love is pure—there isn’t the least shadow of impurity in his love. His love is constant—there isn’t anything that can break the cords of his love. His love is fervent—there isn’t anything that can rival the depths of his love. His desire and delight are in his bride alone. Oh, that I might follow my Savior’s example! I pray that my love for my wife might be like Christ’s love for his bride. How diligently did Christ secure her salvation! How willingly did he shed his blood to cleanse her! How affectionately does he entreat her to be holy! How fervently does he ask his Father to make her holy! How plentifully does he bestow his Spirit upon her to produce holiness in her! He gave himself for her that he might redeem her and purify her. All of his tears and prayers are for her. His birth, his life, his death, his resurrection, and his intercession are all for her. He doesn’t consider himself complete until she is with him in glory. Father, I want my love for the one whom I call ‘my love’ to be like this. I want my heart to be knit to my wife. I want my love for her be like the sun—always shining in full strength.”
Amen. Not bad for an old Puritan! When we love our wives like this, our marriages mirror a far greater reality—namely, the relationship between Christ and his bride. That is to say, our marriages become a living picture of the gospel. An appreciation of this reality liberates marriage from its modern-day caricature as a trap, chore, or burden. It frees marriage from the selfish, self-centered, self-serving, self-gratifying convenience or inconvenience that it has become for many. It elevates marriage into the realm of the divine. And it sets marriage apart as one of the most sacred callings the world has ever known. May the reality of our Christian profession be manifest in our “closest and most familiar” relationship!
Dr. Yuille is the Preaching Pastor at Grace Community Church in Glen Rose, TX and the author of many books. He is also the director of the brand new Baptist Studies Track at Redeemer Theological Seminary, Dallas, TX.
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