So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. - Ephesians 5:33 (NLT)
I was previously married.
I cringe as I utter those words, I shudder as I type them. I hate that even four years later, I feel a hint of shame as I envision the faded scarlet letter of divorce that remains. Although I know Christ has redeemed me, given me new life, and freed me of my shame, I hate that divorce is part of my story. I realize that God is bigger than the sum of my mistakes. I know He is bigger than my divorce, and I know He continues to use it. After all, God used my failed marriage to call me to Him, and He used my failed marriage to teach me about covenant marriage.
A covenant marriage is unique in that it consists of three individuals—man, wife, and Christ. When man and wife agree to marry, they make a promise, or covenant, to be joined together as one before God. In Biblical times, if a covenant promise was not honored, it resulted in death. (Think “‘Til death do us part.”) A covenant marriage is one in which man and wife are in constant pursuit of Christ and the desire to love one another as Christ loves them.
In Ephesians 5:33, God calls us to respect our husbands. “So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” In my heart, I know this is where I went wrong in my previous marriage. I also know God is using this same topic to redeem this new chapter in my life. God has graciously, albeit painfully, given me powerful marital insight through my past mistakes. To love and respect our husbands as He instructs, I believe we must stay rooted in God’s definition of love found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
A Perfect Model
God’s definition of love found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 serves as a perfect model of covenant marriage. “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” It’s easy to get caught up in the world. The temptation to tweak God’s definition of love to align with society is easy. If we let it, our culture will whisper in our ears that we have every reason to be irritated, that our husband is always to blame, and that we deserve our own way. But the second we believe these lies is the second we start to slide down a slippery slope. God calls for us to be set apart. He calls for us to not conform to the patterns of this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. As wives who aim to be obedient in honoring our husbands, our minds need to remain rooted in God’s perfect definition of love, not swayed by society’s selfish and ever-changing definition.
Reflection and Accountability
God’s description of love and covenant marriage also allows for reflection and accountability in our spousal interactions. No matter the circumstance, no matter how we may be tested, no matter how their words or actions may trigger us—we must ask ourselves, “Is my response to my husband one of respect?” A few years ago, God revealed a way to use His word to sanctify me for covenant marriage. Returning to God’s perfect description of love, I replace the word “love” with my name and read it through: “Jessika is patient and kind. Jessika is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Jessika does not demand her own way. Jessika is not irritable, and Jessika keeps no record of being wronged. Jessika does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Jessika never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and Jessika endures through every circumstance.” If I cringe or hesitate as I utter these words, I know that my conviction is an indication of where I am falling short. I humbly ask my covenant partners for forgiveness as I repent—making a conscious decision to turn away from my behaviors that aren’t in alignment with His word.
Though we may stumble and fall back into our old habits, the opportunity for reflection and accountability these verses provide allow for our progression toward sanctification in our marriage.
Heavenly Father, I pray for your daughters united in covenant marriage. As in Hebrews 4:12, I pray for your word, which is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, to penetrate and shape the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts. I pray for our surrender as you continue the work of sanctification you have begun in us. I pray that you would help us to love our husbands better. I pray that you would help us to love like you, Lord. In Jesus’s name. Amen.
Meet the author:
Jessika, a former educator and cheerleader, has always found joy in helping and encouraging others. She is a recovering wanderlust who has found contentment and purpose in being a stay-at-home wife and mom of three. Jessika often writes from the painful places in her past with the hope of showing others how true freedom and wholeness can be found in Christ. You can find her at www.piecesofjessika.com.
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