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Practical Christian Theology

“Love one another with a pure heart fervently” (1 Peter 1:22).

Today our children and grandchildren are suffering from a lack of understanding about marriage and home. Too many are being born out of wedlock, are living without a strong family structure, and are growing up thinking of this nontraditional household as “normal.”

Further complicating this sad affair is the everyday immorality of one or more consenting adults in the house, blatant decadence in entertainment (obsession with entertainment and technology), and the absence of moral teaching in church (because the children do not attend or nobody talks about it) and school (because teachers are forbidden to give moral instruction). Chastity and virginity, therefore, are quaint concepts; marriage is a joke for cynical comedians; divorce and remarriage is a lifestyle for jaded actors; and life is whatever happens (randomness).

Thankfully, this careless, casual, slipshod way of living is not as widespread among Christians as among non-Christians. Partly because the fruit of the Spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:22, 23). Some of us still need, and have, structure in our life, still believe in Christian virtues, still care about one another, still love one another, and haven’t cheapened our life, the life of our spouse, or the life of our children with unholy allegiances, attitudes, and actions.

LOVING OUR SPOUSE

“A man shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh; so then they are no more two, but one. What, therefore, God has joined together let not man put asunder” (Mark 10:7-9).

Not long ago a certain church had a prayer conference; there was no fee; about 100, mostly grayheaded, persons showed up. Later the same church had a marriage conference, for a price; about 1,000 turned out. You may think that shows that charging a fee will bring in more persons … that fixing marriage is more important than praying … that marriages are falling apart and couples need help.

No, that shows that the virtue of prayer is about as quaint as the virtue of chastity and that “believers” have no interest in the practice of prayer because it is a spiritual exercise. But marriage? with a loose speaker who makes his living selling these seminars? Oh, they love sitting at $250 tables, laughing at witticisms. That’s natural.

Couples don’t need marriage seminars and conferences—that’s a 20th-century innovation sold by entrepeneurs. What they need is love.

Have we forgotten?

Love and marriage, love and marriage
Go together like a horse and carriage.
You can’t have one, you can’t have none
You can’t have one without the other
. ~Sammy Cahn

Couples can say what they want; if their marriage is “stale,” they flat out don’t love each other. Because love never grows old. If you love someone, you go on loving him or her forever. Because love is eternal. The secret to having a marriage that never goes stale, then, is simply loving your spouse.

“A friend loves at all times” (Proverbs 17:17). So should a spouse.

You want your marriage to last? “You gotta [love] somebody” (Bob Dylan).

If you still love your parents, your siblings, your kids, and your best friend, if you’d still go to ends of the earth for them, you ought to still love your mate the same way.

You say, “Oh, my parents or my kids: that’s different. They’re part of me.”

So is your spouse. “Bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23). No longer two but one. Remember? A spouse may be an in-law (or out-law) to the rest of your birth family, but not to you. “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (2:24).

“Men ought to love their wife as their own body. A man who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourished and cherished it … Let everyone of you love his wife even as himself” (Ephesians 5:28, 29, 33).

LOVING OUR CHILDREN

“Bring your children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:1-4).

Not long ago I was idling indoors at a fast food restaurant, and child after child got on my nerves, yelling, running, stealing my peace. While in another booth, almost unnoticed, was a mother and a little gentleman quietly behaving himself. What was the difference? How did one home produce a “laughing hyena” and the other a “Little Lord Fauntleroy”?

I will tell you how: nurture (child rearing) and discipline (child training).

These days we have a crisis of discipline. It is not that parents are afraid to discipline their kids. Yes, corporal punishment can be cruel, but it doesn’t have to be—we gently “slap” a baby’s hands if he picks up a needle or straight pin or gets too close a hot stove, don’t we? We say “no” or “hot” so he will learn not to touch. Discipline is simply training, not trouncing.

No, it is not that parents are afraid to discipline their children: it is that they won’t. The kids cry, squeal, scream, talk too loud, run when they should walk, and act like ruffians, and the parents sit or stand there and do nothing, letting the children do whatever they please.

“The alternative to discipline is disaster.” ~Vance Havner

Some parents are so silly they even ask a baby if he wants broccoli or spinach (creamed, of course). How is he supposed to know? He’s only twelve months old. He’s never seen broccoli or spinach before. He doesn’t know the difference between peas and carrots—and he’s supposed to have a preference? Give him the broccoli! Give him the spinach! And train him to like it. Don’t create finicky eaters by asking dumb questions. “Train up a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6).

Instead, children today are rearing themselves. Which explains why they are turning out nurtureless and aimless, coarse and crude. No one has taught them how to behave. Many will come to adulthood still needing a finishing school if they don’t go to prison first.

The reason we don’t reclaim all our children from worldliness is that we begin too late. Parents wait until their children lie before they teach them the value of truth. They wait until their children swear before they teach them the importance of righteous conversation. They wait until their children are all wrapped up in this world before they tell them of a better world. Too late with your prayers. Too late with your discipline. Too late with your benediction …. It is too late to repair a vessel when it has gotten out of the drydock! ~Thomas DeWitt Talmage

LOVING GOD AND OTHERS

We are to love the Lord “with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). We are to love our neighbor as ourselves (Leviticus 19:18) and the stranger as ourselves (19:34). How much more our spouse as ourselves (Ephesians 5:33).

Loving our spouse is showing consideration. Loving our children is rearing them right. Loving our spouse and our children is being there.

God loves us (1 John 4:7, 8), and we are called to return His affection and to love one another (3:23). Not half-heartedly. Not legalistically. But fervently (1 Peter 1:22). God even went so far as to say that loving one another is equivalent to loving Him. “Inasmuch as you have [shown kindness] to one of the least of these … you have done it to Me” (Matthew 25:40).

So He instructs us, “Love one another as I have loved you …. By this will all men know that you are My disciples if you have love one to another” (John 13:34, 35).

“Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think … Let love be without hypocrisy …. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love, in honor preferring one another … Be of the same mind one toward another … Be not wise in your own conceits” (Romans 12:3, 9, 10, 16).

Have you noticed?

• When the other fellow acts out, he’s “ugly”; when you do it, you’re being “firm.”

• When the other fellow doesn’t like your friends, he’s “prejudiced”; when you do it, you’re just a “good judge of character.”

• When the other fellow treats someone especially well, he’s “polishing the apple”; when you do it, you’re “using tact.”

• When the other fellow spends a lot, he’s a “spendthrift”; when you do it, you’re “discriminating.”

• When the other fellow takes time to do things, he’s “dead slow”; when you do it, you’re “careful.”

• When the other fellow holds his money too closely, he’s a “tightwad”; when you do it, you’re “prudent.”

• When the other fellow takes risks, he’s “foolhardy”; when you do it, you’re “calculating.”

• When the other fellow says what he thinks, he’s “spiteful”; when you do it, you’re “frank.”

• When the other fellow won’t get caught in a new scheme, he’s “backward”; when you won’t do it, you’re “conservative.”

• When the other fellow admires art, literature, and music, he’s “effeminate”; when you do it, you’re “refined.” ~Adapted

It doesn’t take much imagination to see how we could apply those biases to our relationship with our spouse and children as well as to our relationship with others.

“Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end]” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Amplified).

Love lasts. It never stops being. It doesn’t quit. It doesn’t give up. Love is eternal.

“Love works no ill to his neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10).

Copyright © 2014 Alexandra Lee

Photo Credit: Couple in Love

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