Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:2-3 (NIV)
Marriage isn’t easy, yet it is a wonderful thing! Many people today enter marriage assuming that if it doesn’t work out it is ok to leave. However, the Bible doesn’t teach us that it is right to give up on marriage, even if it is difficult.
Previously I introduced 1 Corinthians 13, where the attributes of love are set out. These attributes are a challenge to every married couple, as they should be.
Considering the first attribute ‘Love … is patient’, the question must be asked, ‘How should patience be evident in marriage?’
Looking elsewhere in the Bible we read the verses above from Ephesians 2. The starting point is humility and gentleness. If you, or someone you know, is experiencing marital difficulties it is likely that positions have hardened and hurtful things have been said. Adopting a humble and gentle attitude, when confronted with anger and bitterness, can be very difficult. It is all too easy to respond with harsh words. There is a wonderful verse in Proverbs that says:
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1
Turning again to Ephesians 4 we are told to ‘… be patient, bearing with one another in love’. The advice is very clear, we are to put up with each other’s idiosyncrasies in love. It seems like a circular argument – love is patient because it bears with the other person in love. I hear you say, ‘I no longer love my spouse’. Bearing with your spouse is to be an expression of love and by being expressed produces love. Reflect on this and ask yourself if you have given up on your partner, rather than bearing with them. Perhaps you believe that love is a feeling and you think because your feelings have cooled you are no longer in love. However, love is something deeper. You choose to love someone, or not. You choose to bear with them, or not.
But why be patient, why bear with your spouse? I suppose the answer must be because neither you or your spouse is perfect, both are a work in progress. Marriage takes two imperfect people and by being associated with each other (and God) they change to become more Christlike. I have to qualify that because it is obvious that both partners in a marriage must want to be more Christlike for it to happen. If one partner is resisting God’s will then they will not be producing Christlike characteristics in their marriage.
Paul goes on in Ephesians 4 to advise his readers to:
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
This seems to be the bottom line. In marriage, as in everyday life, effort is required to keep harmony. ‘Unity’ and ‘peace’ don’t happen spontaneously, they require effort and in a marriage they require considerable effort. That is why the list in 1 Corinthians ends with ‘love … always perseveres’. But we will come to this particular attribute in a future post.
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