“When I married my wife, I had hardly a smidgen of sense for what I was getting into with her. How could I know how much she would change over 25 years? How could I know how much I would change? My wife has lived with at least five different men since we were wed–and each of the five has been me.
The connecting link with my old self has always been the memory of the name I took on back there: “I am he who will be there with you.” When we slough off that name, lose that identity, we can hardly find ourselves again.” -Lewis Smedes
How Jesus Loved People
Jesus stayed married. Jesus loves us, by staying married, to His bride. When Jesus died on the cross, he entered into a covenant relationship with you and with me. He said to us, You are My bride, and I am your Groom, and I will never leave you or forsake you–ever. (Mathew 28:20, Deuteronomy 31:8)
Jesus did that even though I’m not a very attractive bride. I am on the better end of the relationship, without question. Jesus sacrificed his position in heaven with his Father to dwell here on earth, for me. He endured the ridicule of society, for me. He endured unjust accusation and conviction in the courts, for me. He endured the scourging with the cat of nine tails, he endured the thorny crown, he endured the nails penetrating his limbs, he endured the cross and the shame, for me. He endured all that for His bride’s benefit–for my benefit, and for yours. He gave himself for our relationship. And what do I contribute, to our relationship? What little good I do doesn’t begin to compare with His contributions. And the bad I do: so often, I do things that are unattractive to my Groom.
But still: He said He will never leave me nor forsake me. And He’s One who does what He says He’ll do.
Love Like Jesus
We live in an age of consumerism, and consumerism permeates everything in our Western culture, including marriage. Many today conform the marriage relationship to our culture, and define marriage in terms of economics. So many today are marrying for “me.” The economics of the relationship must be profitable, to “me.” If the marriage relationship is operating at a loss, for “me,” then it’s time to walk away.
But that’s not how God defines a marriage relationship. For God, marriage is a covenant relationship, not a consumer relationship. In a covenant relationship it’s not about the economics of “me,” it’s about my spouse. In a covenant marriage, my love manifests in serving and giving. In a covenant relationship I love my bride as Jesus loves His bride, the church. I give myself for her even as Jesus gave himself for us. (Ephesians 5:25-27)
My marriage, and yours, isn’t a consumer relationship, it’s a covenant relationship. And that makes all the difference. “The connecting link with my old self has always been the memory of the name I took on back there (when I gave my vows): ‘I am he who will be there with you.’ When we slough off that name, lose that identity, we can hardly find ourselves again.” -Smedes
So to love like Jesus, stay married. You be one who keeps that name: “I am he who will be there with you.” Keep that name. Even when what little good your spouse does, doesn’t compare to your contributions. Even when your wife, or husband, does things that are unattractive to you.
That’s what Jesus did.
You can too.
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
[Image via four12 – Creative Commons]
The Meaning of Marriage, Timothy and Kathy Keller, Dutton Adult, 2011