#1 - Love Me (God)
#2 - Love each other
Yes, I'm fully aware that sounds very familiar. From Matthew 22:36-40:
36"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'[a] 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'[b] 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
Of course, these two "keys" or commandments really apply to all of life. In these are found the path to the "abundant life" Jesus promised us. But, God was clearly speaking to me about marriage this morning. In this world where such a premium is placed on self-fulfillment . . . (sic) SELFISHNESS . . . well, let's just say placing God and others first is not promoted. However, it has become exceedingly clear to me (and Patti) that we cannot have "successful", Joyful marriages without putting these commandments into practice in our lives.
God must be first, above all else. It is in the total surrender and dependence on our Creator that we find our "true" selves, "who" God created us to be. It is there that we find ultimate Peace and Joy, it is in that surrender that we discover our true character . . . a reflection of Jesus. I spoke earlier of that holy irony of losing our life only to find it.
Even in good marriages and families, it is often very hard to place God ahead of our spouse and children. But we cannot, we will not succeed in having Joyful marriages and families without doing so. It is a "risk" in worldly terms, and often we shrink back from the "commitment" it requires. For those of us who have taken the step, or are taking those steps (for it is a continual surrendering) hindsight gives us affirmation and blessing.
When we have surrendered our selves to God, He "equips" us to do the second . . . love others. Love our spouse as Christ loves His Church, love our children as God loves them, love others with God's "eyes", even love our enemies!
It is so sad to watch marriages crumble due to selfishness. We see people (often husbands) chasing after fulfillment (worldly), only to find fleeting happiness and leave behind destroyed marriages, families and people. I got my haircut today. My "barber" is a Christian woman whose husband left her and his daughter to "fulfill himself". She spoke of "commitment" as some kind of "dinosaur" which is now extinct.
I talked with my pastor recently about marriage and parenting, (a blessed time it was too.) However, we both felt overwhelmed with the task of saving marriages. How do we battle the world; media, movies, etc. that send such false and damaging messages every day . . . brainwashing young and old alike. How do we convince people that God's plan is so much better, so much more fulfilling . . . that we are made for His plan?! Even in this we must surrender. We pray, we do our best to love our wives, to place them above ourselves, to seek to cherish them, treasure them, to see them through God's loving and affirming eyes. In short, we try as best we can in God's Grace to reflect Jesus as husbands, fathers and friends. And, we don't always get it right, but we also strive to be humble in confessing and seeking forgiveness . . . from God and those we may have hurt, including our wives.
I am painfully aware of several men (I'm sure there may be some women as well, just not personally aware of them) that continue to selfishly seek their own satisfaction to the detriment of their wives, their children, even their extended families. They are living deluded, escapist lives in search of "happiness", but they are forfeiting the Joyful life God had intended for them. I wish there was a way for me to somehow "instill" the Truth, the Grace, the incredible, amazing JOY and Peace I have in my marriage in their hearts and minds. I wish I could somehow show them, help them "glimpse" this Heaven on earth that I experience, even in the midst of struggles and pain.
Pray for your marriage if you are married, pray together with your spouse . . . cover your relationship with God's Grace and protection. If you are not married, pray for those you know who are, because those marriages and families are truly important to you, your community, your church. Pray that God's Truth will prevail in a dark, broken world by the Grace of Christ Jesus and in the Power of the Holy Spirit.