Suffering in MarriageMarch 2, 2012 at 10:20 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 9 Comments
Tags: 1 Corinthians 13, 1 Corinthians 6, 1 Peter 3, Biblical marriage, Christian marriage, Galatians 5, James 3, Luke 21, marriage counseling
Adam and Eve’s response to the realization that sin had made them “naked” in a shameful way (and the response we are often guilty of in our Christian marriages) was: “COVER IT UP!” Our response when we break covenant is to hide or cover it up from the one person who is mostly likely to know about it, and the one person we must deal with in order to receive forgiveness. In other words, our response is a sinful attempt at hypocrisy: portraying ourselves as something we no longer are.
However, God’s response (to clothe them in their shame) was a correction of Adam and Eve’s response. God’s response pointed to their ultimate redemption, and it allows the correction of the broken covenant so that we can once again be “naked and unashamed” within the bounds of Christian marriage.
I Corinthians 13 is sometimes called the “love” chapter of the Bible. It is read at weddings and is quite poetic. But in context it is really more of a test for us to see where we stand concerning whether the gifts that God has blessed us with are being properly used, or whether they are being wasted on us. It applies to all Christians and is not limited to the arena of marriage. However, as a Christian, I certainly do not want the gift of my marriage to be wasted. Even more to the point, I do not want my marriage to be destroyed. And I do not want it to be empty of the eternal value that God wants it to have as a portrayal and glorifying sign of Christ and His Church.
Therefore, I want to look at some of the specifics of Christian agape love through the lens of Christian marriage – to see if we are loving our spouses with the same attention to detail with which God loves us.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
I Corinthians 13:3-4 (emphasis added)
My love toward my spouse must be a love that suffers long. How deep is your love toward your spouse? Is it skin deep? Pin-prick deep? Is it scalpel-probing deep? Or is it side-piercing deep? Is it deep enough that when you are impaled by something your spouse says, there is love dripping off the other end of the spear?
Charity suffers long. In this context “suffering” means: taking injury with a resolve to absorb it without getting even for it. It excludes revenge. Taking injury without “getting even” involves forgoing outward and inward resentment.
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
Agape love in marriage requires wisdom that is “first pure” (which has both an inward and outward application). It is “peacable” (inward and outward). It is “gentle” (outward). It is “easy to be intreated” (outward). It is “full of mercy and good fruits” (outward). It is “without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (inward and outward).
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Galatians 5:22 (emphasis added)
“Longsuffering” is right between the inward (peace) and the outward (gentleness). I said earlier that “suffering” means taking injury with a resolve to absorb it without getting even for it. It also means: taking injury without it affecting our own inward peace. Feeling peace toward my spouse on the inside is one thing, but feeling inner peace toward myself for how I’m dealing with my spouse is even deeper.
Suffering includes inward self-control.
And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake. But there shall not an hair of your head perish. In your patience possess ye your souls.
Luke 21:16-19 (emphasis added)
You can’t always stop your marriage from becoming a battlefield, but you can stop your own soul from becoming a war zone.
Suffering also includes an outward testimony of peace within the marriage union. I know a number of Christian married couples who like to “play-fight” in front of others. This can be a damaging pattern because it sometimes gives others a bad impression of what Christian marriage is supposed to be.
Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?
I Corinthians 6:7
There is a principle of putting up with wrongs among Christians in order to keep outsiders from having a bad opinion of the love we are supposed to have for each other. Christian married couples are “one flesh.” We need to look like one flesh.
Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.
I Peter 3:7 (emphasis added)
Husbands should give honor to their wives openly.