I often get asked questions that center around the relationship between a husband and wife. Earlier this year, there was one question that seemed to encompass all of the others. It went something like this: “The bible commands us: ‘Husbands love your wife, wives, submit to your husband.’” This statement was followed by: "Is that fair?"
A friend of mine purchased a Mercedes convertible a couple of years ago. Very nice car. Bright red, black top, tan interior, when you close or open the doors the windows role down automatically to fit under the top. He told me I was welcome to borrow it, but told me it requires premium fuel. The manufacturer of my friend’s car designed it to run on high octane, premium fuel. Can you put the 87 ethanol in it? Sure. Will it run at peak performance? No.
If God created us, which He did. If He designed men and women different, which He did. If he created the relationship between husband and wife. He defined marriage. Then doesn't He know best what we need in order to experience marriage to the full? So when the bible gives us direction on how to treat each other and tells us that a woman’s greatest need is love and a man’s greatest need is respect then we need to line our lives up accordingly or expect trouble.
So how do we do that? How is it possible?
Step into the orchard of God's work in your life and what do you see? You should see "Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (Galatians 5:22)(NIV) Love is a fruit. But a fruit of whom? Of your hard work? Of your deep faith? Of your rigorous resolve? No. Love is a fruit of the Spirit of God. The Spirit produces the fruit.
And this is so important... You are a branch on the vine of God. Jesus said "I am the vine, and you are the branches." (John 15:5)(NIV) And so our job is to stay put. If God's job in our relationship is to bear fruit. Love, patience, kindness.... Our job is to stay put, to stay tightly attached to Jesus. And the more tightly I stay attached to Him the more purely His love can pass through us and we can live in the overflow.
If we are to stay tightly attached to Jesus, we must crucify, put to death, our sinful desire. Paul wrote of his own life "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)(NIV).
Of all the characteristics I love about my wife Sarah, her strength, her purity, her forgiving spirit, her tenderness as a mother, her love for other moms and wives. What is the source of these things? It is Christ living in her.
Truth is, many of us surrender our lives to Christ, we want his salvation, and we even for a time want His Lordship. He gives us His spirit in baptism but instead of engaging His Spirit, we continue to live life on our own. We try to modify our behavior, we try to have relationship, we try to give up old habits, and when we fail we wonder why. Jesus addresses that feeling of not being able to do in on our own in Matthew 11:29 when he said "Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:29)(NIV). Jesus used a familiar word - "Yoke". A yoke keeps us in step, it is used to connect us together. Yokes were used to connect farm animals that worked together. It is used today in training. An experienced horse is teamed, yoked with an inexperienced horse.
Notice the words that Jesus uses to describe his yoke. Gentle, Humble, easy, and light. Keeping in step with him can be described the same way. And when we keep in step with the Sprit, we respond to his promptings, we harmonize our life with him and we begin to anticipate his moves.... This is when the fruit begins to come. And so when kindness is tough, we will remember his kindness to us and ask him to make us more kind. When patience is scarce - we will thank him for his patience toward us and be more patient. When it's hard to forgive, we won't keep a list but instead remember all the times we've been given grace. And when it is hard to love, we will drink deeply from God's endless love and it will begin to overflow into the lives of those in our circle.
Join us this Saturday night at 5:30 and Sunday at 10:30 as we learn to live in the Overflow. I looking forward to seeing you here at MCC.