Covenantal Love, God-Glorifying Commitment

Because my husband and I work together in separation and divorce ministry, I often feel compelled to write about these issues. Ironically, having gone through a divorce myself, God has subsequently given me a heart to want to understand and live out the deeper meaning of marriage. We flawed human beings have an opportunity to mirror God’s covenantal, unending love for us – however imperfectly – by committing to love another human being for the rest of our lives. Truly, it is a mystery (Ephesians 5:32).

Of course, because our culture has slowly turned our thinking about marriage toward one of self-fulfillment, happiness, and other measures of personal gain, God’s high view of marriage is rarely ours. I am still not immune to grieving the sheer volume of pain and destruction being brought into the lives of people I meet whose marriages are falling apart, and the trajectory of yet another set of lives takes a decidedly different, and usually southward, bent.

I mourn the loss of a high view of marriage in our culture. I really do. I mourn the loss of the idea that marriage has more to do with our love for, trust of, and commitment to Jesus than it does about our love for/ongoing infatuation with another person.

And so it is with a great deal of emotion and awe that I watched a video posted on John Piper’s blog this week, This Momentary Marriage: The Story of Ian and Larissa. A part of the story of Ian and Larissa is told in this short video, and I want to strongly encourage you to find nine minutes of your life to watch it and be inspired by this rare example of selfless, Christ-exalting love.

It is deeply encouraging to see that there are yet still people in this world – well, at least two – who come to the altar understanding that their commitment to each other is a measure of their commitment to Christ, and a practical, day-to-day living out of His love for us.

This couple entered marriage knowing that, for them, life together will never be easy. Their marriage will likely not be prosperous in any temporal sense at all, particularly for Larissa, who said “I do” knowing that she was committing the rest of her life to be a selfless servant to her husband. Larissa (at such a young age!) had the foresight to see what many of us only realize in hindsight. Most of us marry for reasons that are, at best, “with mixed motives.” At least part of us hopes and believes that marriage will make us happier, improve our lot, stave off loneliness…and a host of other possibilities for which we long.

But the truth is that marriage, rightly entered into, is a covenant where we are committing our entire lives to selflessly serve another. All of us, whether we know it or not, are committing to die to our own selfish desires, our own needs, and our own expectations for how life should go, for the good of another person. Jesus defined love as laying down your life for another (John 15:13). This is truly what a Christ-like marriage is designed to reflect. So few of us see that, for much of my life I myself did not see that, and I think that’s maybe why Ian and Larissa’s story is so beautiful – and why so many of us fail in our marriages. We don’t see and accept what Larissa saw and accepted…and embraced.

Despite the fact that their young marriage is guaranteed to be hard, I would venture to say that their life together is lived with more joy and more awe for their God than many of ours will be over the course of decades. Unless, of course, we decide to join them in their pursuit of Christ at the cost of all things temporal, and glorify God with everything with have…including our relationship with our spouse.

I am very deliberately keeping this week’s post brief so that you will have those nine extra minutes to watch the video, consider this amazing story, and spend a few minutes in prayerful reflection on what hard things God may be calling you to do with your life and your marriage.

Ephesians 5:25-33 (ESV)
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

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