Monday, February 28, 2011

The Gospel-Play that is Marriage

My friend Stephen Bean recently wrote an article on the importance of marriage reminding us that the Gospel is at stake:

"What is the most neglected form of worship? What is the most effective form of evangelism? In what part of your life is Christ most on display? The answer to all of these questions is: your marriage. We live in an age where public ministry is king, but if you’re married the most effective, long lasting, and important form of public ministry you have is your private ministry to your wife.

An acquaintance of mine was on a spiritual high. He loved evangelism, and wanted to use as much time doing it as possible. Of course, this became to the neglect of doing devotions with his family. The justification: “the Bible teaches us to evangelize, that’s what I feel called to do and I need time to do it.” His sin wasn’t a sin of bad motive; it was a sin of neglect. He didn’t realize that in neglecting his family he was damaging the most beautiful demonstration of the gospel he had.

1 Peter 3:15 is one of the most oft-quoted texts when it comes to evangelism: “…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…” There is no doubt that this text challenges us to be in the world ready to engage the lost with the gospel. It also challenges our intellect; we must be ready to give answers to all sorts of questions. However, most importantly, it challenges the heart. We must “honor Christ as holy,” this implies that people will see the fruit of our love and admiration for Christ and ask about the hope that is within us. So now we ask, “what must I be doing that will show the world that I am honoring Christ in this way?”

If we look up just a couple of paragraphs in 1 Peter 3 we find some help in verse 7, “…husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” Peter emphasizes that your prayer life could be hindered by failing to show honor to your wife. This seems strange to us if we don’t have a full, biblical understanding of what it means to be a husband. Paul’s explanation in Ephesians 5:25-27:

“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.”

Paul goes on to explain that the meaning and purpose of marriage from its very inception has been to reflect Christ’s love for the church. That’s the gospel! So if you are married you have one of two roles in the gospel-play that is marriage; you are either Christ or the church. Husbands, if you are to demonstrate the gospel to the lost world that is around you it starts at home where you play out exactly how holy you believe Christ to be. Christ does not neglect his church for anything, why would you teach the world that he does by neglecting your wife?

The good news is that as bad a job as you and I may do in reflecting Christ to our wives and to this culture, outside of the “gospel-play” we are the church. In other words, just as we are called to display how Christ sanctifies the church, we are also called to be sanctified by Christ. This means that today is a new day; we can begin seeking to be the husbands we are called to be, and that will also make us the evangelists we are called to be."

Grace upon grace,
JRL

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