By Erin A. Barry, Crosswalk.com
He is risen. He is risen indeed!
Easter celebrates the pinnacle of our Christian faith, the risen Christ. We owe a debt to God because of sin that we cannot pay. Jesus is sinless and perfect. Only He could take on the sin of the world and die in our place so that we could have access to God through His blood. But His death is not the end. It is the beginning. His resurrection concurred death! He is both Savior and Lord! He now reigns at the righthand of God. He sent His Holy Spirit to empower us to live victoriously, no longer as slaves to sin! If we believe in Jesus, our position changes, and our daily submission to Him and His Word transforms us into His likeness. That is why we celebrate Easter!
Our conversion changes everything in our lives! The Holy Spirit changes what we value, our purpose for living, and our motives, which affects our actions, choices, and, ultimately, our relationships. Our faith permeates every facet of our lives. And one of the areas where the transformation in us will be visible is in the way we see and interact with our spouse.
I was on a plane seated next to a man in his mid-fifties. We began talking. He told me he was divorced and on his way to meet his girlfriend. They lived in different cities but met regularly at romantic destinations for the weekend. He said his marriage was dull, but his new relationship was exciting. I asked him if he planned to marry her, and he replied, "Probably not because that would squelch what we have." Then he asked me if I was married. Honestly, I was not sure what to say after his story! But I briefly shared about the relationship my husband and I have, our commitment to Christ, and each other.
He was quiet and then said, "You are lucky. You found your soul mate."
I kindly stated that I do not believe in soul mates. Based on Plato's The Symposium, the myth says, "according to Greek mythology, humans were originally created with four arms, four legs, and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, Zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves." 1 So somewhere out there is the person, your other half, and if you find them, you will have an effortless, fulfilling relationship. He was essentially saying, your relationship is easy; mine was hard. If only I had met my soul mate, my life would be different.
So, I found my courage and gently explained the foundation of a biblical worldview of marriage. That my husband and I were not just naturally compatible, floating souls who, now that we have found each other, are blissfully experiencing transcendent love and romance! On the contrary, we put tremendous effort into submitting ourselves to God through the Holy Spirit and loving each other as Christ first loved us.
He, like many, believes this false idea that marriage should be easy and exciting or you've married the wrong person.
We All Marry the Wrong Person
If our goal is to marry someone who will make our life easy and fulfill all our needs, then we all marry the wrong person. No person can do that for another person. Many people caught up in our culture's unrealistic romantic promise end up deeply disappointed by the limitations of their spouse. Ernest Becker calls it "apocalyptic romance." It is when we make our spouse the source of what only God can give.
In his excellent book, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God, Timothy Keller expounds on author Ernest Becker's claim.
"At one time we expected marriage and family to provide love, support, and security. But for the meaning in life, hope for the future, moral compass, and self-identity we looked to God and the afterlife. Today, however, our culture has taught us to believe that no one can be sure of those things, not even whether they exist. Therefore, Becker argued, something has to fill the gap, and often that something is romantic love. We look to sex and romance to give us what we used to get from faith in God." 2
Romance has its place, but if it is the focus, our marriage will fall short of what God intended. Only God can fulfill our needs because only He is perfect. When our lives are properly aligned as God directed, we find hope and meaning in our relationship with Him. Then from that place of receiving from God, we are empowered to love and serve each other in our marriage.
How does God empower us?
He gives up His Spirit so we can live as Scripture outlines. And Jesus's life is our example.
Lessons From Easter
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Choosing to Serve
Luke 22:27 "For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves."
During The Last Supper, the disciples argue over who is most important. It is so easy to read about them and shake our heads at their self-centeredness. Yet, in our marriages, do we not do this as well? Do we not compare our responsibilities and contributions with our spouses? Do we not plead our case for why we should be honored and/or served? "I make the most money." "I took this job so you could advance your career." "I do all the work around the house."
Jesus contrasts how the world uses their positions of power and authority at the expense of others with how we are to use them in the kingdom of God. In Jesus' example, he is reclining at the table, so he is greater. But he has chosen the position of servant. He lays down his life. He doesn't rely on His deity and equality with God but takes on the form of a servant. (Phil 2:1-8)
Like Christ, we must not look out for our self-interest or be consumed with our self-importance, but choose to serve.
Persevering in Our Marriage
Luke 22: 42, "[Jesus] saying, Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will but Yours be done."
Jesus knows what death on the cross will cost Him. He asks God if there is another way. Haven't we all felt that? In any trial or struggle, haven't we prayed for God to just miraculously remove the circumstance or fix the problem painlessly?
When facing a difficulty, we need to run to God first. We, too, can ask for Him to intervene. But notice when the circumstance is not changed according to His prayer, Jesus aligns himself with God's will and walks through the trial.
This is an intense situation with Jesus asking God to remove His cup. He is sweating blood because of what God's will would mean for him. I am not in any way saying stay in an abusive, unsafe relationship or one with a pattern of sexual immorality, drug addiction, etc. In those cases, get help, and if it is unsafe, leave. Instead, I am pointing to the principle of submitting to God during a trial, laying down our selfishness, and doing the hard work of growing where submitting to the Holy Spirit can change us and our situation.
In 2002 a marriage study of 10,000 couples rated the couple's happiness twice, five years apart. The results showed that two-thirds of the unhappy couples staying together were happy five years later. In, Does Divorce Make People Happy? Findings From a Study of Unhappy Marriage, Sociologist Linda Waite studied what changed these unhappy marriages to happier ones. She quoted comments such as,
'Mostly, we just kept putting one foot in front of the other, and things began to get better."
"I mellowed…I adjusted more than he changed."
Some couples reported getting input and advice from friends, family, or counselors. Others noted that the circumstances that were making them unhappy were resolved.
Sometimes we are focused on one or two pain points, and it blinds us from the bigger picture and the other many good things that are happening. The study reminds us that through persevering, God can use trials to temper us (James 1:2-4) and produce good. (Romans 8:28)
Vision for Your Marriage
Hebrews 12:2 "Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross…."
God's perspective expands to an eternal focus. Jesus knew what was ahead. He knew his suffering, death, and resurrection were for a purpose far beyond the momentary pain and loss. He knew that everything he experienced helped to further God's ultimate plan and would deeply affect humanity.
Likewise, our marriages benefit society. Why Marriage Matters, Second Edition: Twenty-Six Conclusions From Social Science, points out that marriage deeply affects children by reducing social risks in that they are 3x less likely to drop out of school, 12x less likely to be incarcerated, and it protects them against living in poverty. The poverty rate for single parents with children at the time of the survey was 36.5%, whereas it was 6.4% for married parents with children, regardless of racial or ethnic background. Marriage is associated with better physical and mental health for men, women, and children. Many other studies also demonstrate the tremendous value to the broader culture strong marriages and families bring.
We need the Lord's help daily to see our lives, including our marriages, from His eternal perspective.
The Blood of Jesus
Romans 4:7 "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered."
1 Peter 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.
If you are married, I am sure you have had to forgive your spouse 70 x7 and be forgiven that many times as well! (Matt 18:22) God's resurrection power at work in us empowers us to do that. It enables us to be patient, kind, not rude or self-seeking, and to keep no record of wrong. (1 Corinthians 13) "Love covering sin does not mean we disregard our own emotions or ignore personal boundaries. We cannot 'cover' sin by denying that it hurt us. We cover sin by acknowledging it and then extending the forgiveness God has given us to others." 3
This year as you celebrate Easter, thank God for His incredible gift of salvation. Ask for the hope of the resurrection to fill your heart and commit to extending that grace in your marriage and beyond. Resurrection power released the Holy Spirit, who now makes it possible for us to live the way we were created to live.
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- Keller, Timothy, and Kathy Keller. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. Penguin Books, 2016.
- GotQuestions.org. “Home.” GotQuestions.org, 24 Feb. 2016, https://www.gotquestions.org/love-covers-multitude-sins.html.
- Exarchopoulos, Socrates. “The Greek Myth of Soulmates, When Human Became Humans.” GHD, GHD, 23 Nov. 2020, https://www.greecehighdefinition.com/blog/the-greek-myth-of-soulmates.
Erin A. Barry is an author, speaker, counselor, and educational consultant. With a bachelor’s degree in education and an NCCA master’s of arts in clinical Christian counseling, Erin has an advanced certification in sexual therapy and is working on her doctorate in Christian counseling. She is the author of, Yes, You Can Homeschool! The Terrified Parent’s Companion To Homeschool Success. She and her husband, Brett, are founders of The Home Educated Mind, a Christ-centered community dedicated to providing materials and support for Christian parents.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
If you want to learn more about the resurrection and its power, this article is for you: 4 Powerful Lessons from Christ's Resurrection
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