Today I attended the wedding of my friend Callie Pritchett (now Nolen) and her groom Ben Nolen. It was a splendid occassion characterized by moments of humor, excitement, and worship. Callie and Ben’s pastor gave one of the best wedding sermons that I have ever heard. He challenged Callie to humbly submit to her husband and trust his leadership. He charged Ben to be a humble and gentle leader who is sensitive to the needs of his wife. The pastor then turned the message and challenge toward those in the congregation who were already married. He challenged us to consider our marriage in light of God’s Word and to evaluate our consistency in living out the gospel in our marriages. This charge comes from Ephesians 5:22-33. Naturally one question came to mind following this challenge and Scripture. How am I leading my wife toward God as a husband?
As I thought about my wife and our nearly 9 month old marriage, I was reminded once again about the sacrifice I must make on a daily basis in order that my wife may be drawn toward God through my example and love. I must continually crucify the selfish desires that lie within me and seek to serve my wife in every instance. I once heard someone say that as husbands and wives we should seek to out-serve each other. We should not take up this perspective in order to use it as a trump card or to hold it against our spouses, thus elevating ourselves. We should take this perspective in order to live out the gospel by loving our spouses as ourselves, more than ourselves.
In the short time that I have been married, I have found that the greatest battle in serving and leading my wife has come from within my own heart and mind. As a husband or wife, your acts of service toward one another can be twisted within your hearts and minds by your selfish will or by Satan’s subtle persuasiveness. The result is an attitude of frustration and possibly resentment. Since marriage is a picture of Christ and the church, these same struggles and principles apply to our relationship with God and the community of believers. There are many times that we engage in acts of service with a resentful attitude. And how often are we fixated on our own wants and desires while neglecting to consider and love our brethren and neighbors? In an age of designer religion and consumerism, we are taught early on in life to pursue what is best for our own needs even at the expense of others. We can pick and choose what we desire to adhere to and live by depending on our own wants and needs. Yet all the while those wants and needs are constantly changing, being moved and swayed by the changing culture.
What I am reminded is that I need to die to self each day in order that I may serve God, my wife, and others. I have a choice each morning when I awake. I can fix my eyes on fulfilling my desires with the temporal offerings of this world or I can fix my eyes on Jesus, being filled by the Holy Spirit, in order that I may “set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12) As I set an example for my fellow believers, I am also living out the gospel in testimony to those who do not believe. And living out the gospel in service and love must begin in my own home.