Thursday, March 14, 2013

Marriage Isn’t Fair

God isn’t fair. What’s fair is if we each pay for the bad things we do. But God says that the penalty for doing bad things is to be eternally separated from him. Too many find out too late that this is an exceptionally unpleasant state of existence. So God did what was unfair to make it possible for some people to spend eternity with him. Instead of requiring them to pay the penalty for what they’ve done wrong, he took on human flesh and paid for it himself. In this way Jesus Christ, the God-man, who was innocent of any wrongdoing, paid for the wrongdoing of sinners with his death on the cross. That’s not fair.

God calls the Body of Christ to do this. It works like this: we are often self-centered. That is, we often perceive conflict as being unfair to us without seeing how we have been unfair to others. If we acted this way, we would always have gripes and complaints about other people who perceive that not only have we been unfair to them, but that we are unfairly accusing them of being unfair. But if we exhibit the love of Christ, then this balances our misperceptions. If the love of Christ was to give his life for ours, then for us to exhibit the love of Christ to others means that we bear the burden of unfairness, real or perceived, between us and other people. The result is that we nullify the false perception of unfairness in others and build trust between us and them.

This works in marriage. In Ephesians wives are instructed to submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ and husbands are instructed to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Women often balk at the command to submit to their husbands. It’s simply not fair. Their husbands don’t deserve to be submitted to and women deserve as much as men do to have power in the relationship. Now that would be fair. Men don’t balk at the command to love their wives as Christ loved the church, but I think most simply don’t understand what that entails. That means that husbands are to self-sacrifice for her benefit, even if it means giving up his own life for her. That’s not fair, is it? But God doesn’t call us to be fair.

What issue in marriage is greater than wives giving up their freedom in submission and men loving literally to their own death? Does he leave his dirty clothes on the floor? Does she leave her hair dryer on the sink? Does he spend too much on guns, sports and cars? Does she spend too much on clothes and décor? It’s not fair is it? Instead of complaining, if we serve each other in the extreme way we have each been called to, he will learn that he is being unfair to his wife by leaving his clothes on the floor and she will learn that she is being unfair to her husband by leaving the hair dryer on the sink. He will realize that he is being unfair by spending too much on guns, sports and cars, and she will realize that she is spending too much on clothes and décor. Whatever the issue is, self-sacrifice for each other results in being able to see the world through the others’ eyes. The level of trust will result in an abiding marriage that will withstand any challenge. Ultimately, God will be glorified because people will see a married couple living out the gospel of Christ to each other in their daily lives.

The good news is that Jesus didn’t stay dead. How can you keep the author of life dead? If we live sacrificially as he did, then the promise of God is that we will share in the eternal life of Christ. How does this work in our marriage? I propose that spouses who follow the pattern of Christ that they have been instructed by God to follow will have such life in their marriage as will give joy in bad times as well as good times. As one spouse passes into the other world, the remaining spouse will realize without a doubt that their partner is now with the Lord that they served so well. The testimony of the life of the one who passed from their mortal coil will live on in the words of the spouse who remains, their children and grandchildren.

Therefore live unfairly, giving to your spouse more good than he or she deserves without complaint.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Read the Bible

The reviews of The Bible miniseries by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey have started to come out. And as I type this, I’m watching the second showing on Lifetime (The first was last night on the History Channel). I won’t add to what they say, but I will make one point. It’s easy for Christians to criticize an attempt to convey the overarching message of the Bible in a scant ten hours. But I think Burnett and Downey have a good approach here. See the trailer:

The reviews I’ve read so far are at Stand to Reason and Answers in Genesis. But it’s helpful to hear the idea from the standpoint of the creators. They did an interview with Focus on the Family that you need to listen to. Their goal is not to try and tell every story in the Bible, but to produce a series with high production value that will provide an incentive for people to read the Bible – particularly those who are not Christian.

I was raised with the typical Sunday School lessons of unconnected Bible stories and Aesop’s-fable-style moral lessons. So the idea is that we are supposed to be good people, right? That’s what the stories are all about, or so my Sunday School teachers always taught. That’s what Matthew Boyd wrote about recently. But that kind of teaching doesn’t provide a solid framework for actually teaching the gospel. The goal isn’t to behave well, but to understand what God has done for us through Jesus Christ. It wasn’t until I was an adult and read the Bible in such a way as to see how all the stories were part of a whole meta-narrative that I understood how it all speaks to Christ.

That’s why my church has been breaking into small groups and reading the Bible together using the Community Bible Experience as a tool to do so. So if The Bible miniseries doesn’t have all of our favorite details, don’t fret. It might make more Christians when people pick up a Bible and read it for themselves instead of criticizing it based on what other people have said about it. They might follow in the footsteps of Rosaria Butterfield:

Now that would be a good thing.