Gospel commitments must go beyond core beliefs and become core practices. Robert Cheong author of God Redeeming His Bride says; “…God calls you to live out the gospel in authentic community and engage in His mission.” Cheong goes on to identify four key components of what it means to engage in the everyday gospel mission we are all called to;
- Loving God and one another
- Engaging one another with the gospel
- Fighting for one another in suffering and sin
- Forgiving and reconciling with one another
I probably don’t have to convince you of the ‘rightness’ of each of these truths. They should resonate powerfully with our understanding of how God wants us to live in relationship with each other. But the reality is, we often fail to practice these gospel truths with our marriage partner. We can forget that the most basic form of Christian community is the relationship between a husband and wife. Why is that so? Perhaps it’s the closeness, or the intensity of the relationship that causes us to struggle. When emotions run high and disappointment runs deep we can excuse ourselves from stewarding our hearts with a gospel perspective. Let me encourage you to embrace the everyday gospel mission with your lifelong partner.
Loving God and your spouse with the gospel—Jesus said it best, “…As I have loved you, so you must love one another (John 13:34).” We’re very familiar with the words, but sometimes we forget they apply to our marriage partner. Because marriage offers us the wonderful blessing of romantic love, we forget that every marriage desperately needs committed love. Feelings are never the sustainable force in a long-term relationship. Only Gospel committed love can empower the heart to overcome and endure the trials and tests that life can bring, and come out on the other side with stronger and deeper feelings of love for our partner.
What does it mean to engage our spouse with the gospel? To engage someone means that we become involved with them, we participate with them. It means to ‘enter into’ the life of another. It’s the essence of what it means to know and be known. The word “engage” hearkens back to the heart of the Gospel, when God himself entered humanity by becoming one of us (Philippians 2:5-11). Wow! That’s way too much to try and unpack here, but just to ask; How intentional are you at wanting to know and be known in your marriage?
How do we fight for one another in suffering and sin with the gospel? Choosing to come along side another brother or sister when they are suffering is often a conscious choice we get to make. We call it ministry. But when you are married to someone who is suffering (which happens to all of us at some level) or sinning (which all of us do in some way), our involvement is seldom a conscious choice we make. It’s part of the package we committed to when we said “I do.” Without God’s help and grace, partners in marriage can begin to resent the ‘struggle’ they have married into. But wonderfully and redemptively, this very struggle is a part of God’s transformative purpose in marriage that most of us were oblivious to when we fell in love (Ephesians 5:21-33). Without a conscious decision to fight for one another’s ‘redeeming purpose’ we can start fighting with one another. If you are embroiled in bitter conflict with your spouse, ask God to help you turn the fight around and start fighting for one another!
We all know its right to forgive when we are wronged, but hurt and wounded emotions can cause the heart to resist God’s pathway of grace. As C. S. Lewis once said; Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive. Jesus taught in the parable of the unjust steward (Matthew 18:21-35), that we gladly receive the forgiveness given to us, but when it comes to granting forgiveness—not so much! God never promised that forgiveness would be easy, but He does promise to help us abundantly. Here’s the wonderful news. Forgiveness opens the heart to receive a greater deposit of God’s grace that carves deeper channels of His love in our heart for our partner that bring renewal in the marriage.
Don’t forget to practice the gospel in your marriage!