Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”
“A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” The English poet John Keats began one of his poems with that observation. You have perhaps observed the same thing—in a beautiful painting, home, or sunset.
In Ephesians chapter 5, God paints a beautiful picture for us—the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church. Jesus loves and serves the Church. He sacrifices himself for her. He leads the Church. The Church loves, serves, respects, and follows Jesus. It’s a beautiful picture of a beautiful relationship.
God tells husbands and wives to imitate this beautiful relationship. The husband should love, serve, lead, and sacrifice for his wife. The wife should love, serve, and respect her husband. A marriage where that happens is a beautiful marriage.
Marriage often doesn’t look beautiful. Why? Marriage always joins together two sinners. Sinners, selfish by nature, find all sorts of excuses to not love and serve their spouse. Things like pride, self-centeredness, laziness, and anger wedge their way into marriages and between spouses. Too often sin multiplies as the offended person retaliates and becomes an offender too.
When sin gets unleashed inside a marriage, it’s not a pretty picture. Whether it’s your marriage or someone else’s marriage, that’s ugly. If sinners like us can see that as ugly, how do you think our holy God sees it?
God’s Word tells us that Christ loved the Church. Jesus “gave himself up for her [for the Church].” Jesus lived a perfect life in our place and died on the cross to cancel the debt of all our ugly sins. In baptism, the “washing with water through the Word,” Jesus washes all that ugly sin off. Jesus makes sinners holy and blameless. We are now beautiful in God’s eyes.
Are you in a marriage that’s so infused with sin that it feels hopeless? Do you doubt that marriage can be beautiful? Start painting. I have children who are better artists than I am. How did they achieve this? They had great teachers who have shown and modeled good technique for them. They have practiced, a lot. When a picture didn’t turn out how they wanted, they tried again and again.
Are you married? See the beautiful picture that Jesus and the Church paint. You are forgiven and loved. You have a perfect example to follow. Start painting. Love and serve. Repent and forgive. Love and serve some more.
By God’s grace, as they reflect the beautiful picture of Christ and his Church, husbands and wives honor God and paint their marriage beautiful.
Dear Jesus, sin stains and corrupts marriage. Forgive the sins of husbands and wives. Forgive all my sins. Strengthen and empower husbands and wives to love and serve each other and you. Amen.
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