Friday, 24 February 2012

Who fills up your love tank?

My last post on marriage may have sounded very negative.  However, I do see marriage as a blessing.  After all marriage was given to humankind by God.  Yet it is hard work because of the fall of humankind into sin.  I had doubts before I married Caroline and our first few years were particularly difficult.  But I would now say that I am glad to be married and generally enjoy family life.  Marriage may be hard work but it is worth the investment. 

The Bible sees benefits in both singleness and marriage but one thing that has little merit to it is the modern practise of living together without being married.  Besides the fact that sex outside marriage is prohibited in the Bible, living together is also foolish.  Living together is 'play-marriage' with none of the security that marriage provides.  It is intimacy with great vulnerability.  It says 'I want all of you, but I am not willing to commit all of myself to you.'  Keller points out that a substantial body of research points out that living together before marriage actually increases your likelihood of divorcing after marriage.

In the last church where I worked I used to marry people using the Methodist Service Book.  It contained words that read something like, 'the love between a husband and a wife pictures the love of Christ for his church.'  This truth is found in Paul's letter to the Ephesians.  Our marriages can reflect and commend the gospel.  It is noteworthy that Paul's comments on marriage flow on from his teaching on being filled with the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit's influence upon the life of the believer is to impact their marriage.  Even though marriage is difficult, the Christian has been given the Holy Spirit to help us. 

Notice that the resources given by the person of the Holy Spirit mean that we are not simply looking at our spouse to satisfy all our perceived needs.  Some people put an unbearable strain on their marriage because they expect their spouse to give them what only God can give.  It is not in marriage that we find meaning in life or true fulfilment.  The person who is being filled with the Spirit is finding their true satisfaction in God and therefore can approach their spouse with a desire to lovingly serve them.  As Keller writes, 'If we look to our spouses to fill up our tanks in a way that only God can do, we are demanding an impossibility.'

'The deep happiness that marriage can bring, then, lies on the far side of sacrificial service in the power of the Spirit.  That is, you only discover your own happiness after each of you has put the happiness of your spouse ahead of your own, in a sustained way, in response to what Jesus has done for you.  Some will ask, "If I put the happiness of my spouse ahead of my own needs - then what do I get out of it?"  The answer - happiness.  That is what you get, but a happiness through serving others instead of using them, a happiness that won't be bad for you.  It is the joy that comes from giving joy, from loving another person in a costly way.  Today's culture of the "Me-marriage" finds this very proposal - of putting the interests of your spouse ahead of your own - oppressive.' Tim Keller



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