Every year, Valentine’s Day comes around. Every year, husbands and wives are encouraged by pastors, friends, family, and the media to buy a gift, a card, chocolates, roses or something else to celebrate this day. But did you know that Valentine’s Day can actually point us to something far deeper than just superficial love? There is no doubt in my mind, regardless of what the media portrays, that one of the deepest expressions of human love is the biblical love that God has given between husbands and wives.
And did you know that God designed marriage with the gospel in mind? In his book, The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller observed, “If God had the gospel of Jesus’s salvation in mind when he established marriage, then marriage only ‘works’ to the degree that approximates the pattern of God’s self-giving love in Christ.”
Paul aims his focus at marriage in Ephesians 5:22-33. Paul admonishes wives to submit to and respect their husbands and admonishes husbands to sacrificially love and cherish their wives. These relational commands highlight the reality that we as humans are basically self-centered and want our own needs met. By respectfully submitting to her husband (voluntarily), the wife display a Christ-like pattern of submission. Christ submitted himself to the will of the Father. By sacrificially loving his wife as Christ loved the church, the husband reflects a depth of love most perfectly displayed in the gospel story (Christ’s perfect life, death, and resurrection).
Loving and submitting as Christ are positive actions in absolute discord with human selfishness. Wives cannot be self-centered while respectfully submitting to their husbands. Husbands cannot be self-centered while sacrificially loving their wives. Both actions (submitting and loving) picture the gospel, both actions require lives changed by the gospel, and both actions reveal a Christ-centered marriage.
These admonitions are not easy, but they are worthwhile. Since I’ve been thinking on this subject, I’ve daily been confronted by my own self-centeredness. All to often, I demand my own way or get frustrated when my wife doesn’t read my mind. Marriage is a daily confrontation of our own selfishness. And I believe that’s just how God intended it. For when we rightly confront our selfishness with (submission or love), we discover the intensity and depth of beauty in marriage. Marriages where both spouses selflessly give themselves to one another with respect and love are marriages that declare the gospel itself. This is the kind of marriage that God desires, the kind of marriage that will last, and the kind of marriage that might actually proclaim the gospel to others.