Years ago I received a mission from the Lord to pray for his church, his bride, his body–to pray for her unity and mutual love. This morning in prayer, God’s Spirit reminded me of a passage from Paul:
Ephesians 5: 35-37 (Paraphrase) Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, just as Christ did for us, his church. May your love be a matter of sacrifice and giving to her, not out of your need to receive.
Just as Christ’s love makes His church whole, your love will bring out the best in your wife. Everything he does and says is designed to bring out the best in his bride, whom he dresses in a dazzling white gown, radiant with holiness and without fault. That is how you Christian husbands must love your wives. Love and cherish them as you do your own flesh. For a man who loves his wife actually loves himself, since “you are “one flesh.” When you do this, you both will benefit and God will be glorified.
The first thing about this text is the Apostle uses the feminine pronoun “she.”(Greek: autei). The church is not an “it.” The church is the family of God’, a living entity, not an institution. We are Christ’s bride, his living, breathing body on earth. We are the church.
The second is the joy and mystery of the profound unity of man and woman–husband and wife– in the sacred bond of marriage. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2: 24)
My third response is perplexity. How can God Almighty transform this deeply flawed church of his so that she becomes his glorious bride, one without spot or wrinkle or any fault? It stretches my faith to the limit. Yet His Word is clear that he does do this and at his appearing will perform this great miracle of transformation. Or, perhaps the transformation will continue even beyond that. The Bible doesn’t say.
But for me, now, and for many men I know, the main point of this passage is, while, like me, my wife is deeply flawed, I am to love her unconditionally, as Christ loves his own bride. I can do this if I choose to do it AND if I trust Him to give me His agape Spirit to accomplish it.
Recently, I’ve been finding God’s grace to take a few faltering steps in this direction, answering her negatives with soft positives, not feisty arguments. Funny thing is, when I do, she changes and answers me with a softer, kinder spirit.
As a result, we have been having much fewer conflicts. But that’s not the best part. As I overlook her flaws to focus on her good qualities, our relationship blossoms. When she receives from me the positive attention and love she craves, I find pleasure just being with her. Yes, it’s great! Little by little we are helping each other become better than we were. And through all this, God is glorified.
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