During our engagement my fiancé (now wife) and I worked through Dave Harvey’s book When Sinners Say “I Do”. In this convicting book, Harvey makes the point that, “Marriage is the union of two people who arrive toting the luggage of life. And that luggage always contains sin.” Needless to say, my wife and I had different stories growing up. She was saved at 10 while I was saved at 17. As a result of my “luggage”, I might have been a little bit more beaten and bruised from the journey. With that said, we soon found out that, even though, our luggage looked different it was still equally tattered.
Whether you’ve been married for fifty minutes or fifty years, marriage is the joining together of two sinners. Acknowledgment of sin by married couples is a must in order to have a healthy marriage. In marriage, two people come together under Christ, which results in their faults being exposed, with the result that they recognize their desperate need of His grace. Humility allows a husband or wife to admit their faults and throw themselves upon Christ’s mercy. When husband and wife say, “I Do” they are confessing before God and man to love this sinful person for a lifetime. Marriage is where both spouses choose to love their spouse in spite of their brokenness while acknowledging your own. Love is a matter of volition not a matter of feeling. This kind of love is revealed through God in Christ loving us while we were still sinners.
Cleaning out Your Closet
If you are like us, you might share a small closet filled with clothes, shoes, and other miscellaneous items. We had in our closet, a really nice and expensive piece of luggage that was given to us when our daughter was born. We never ended up using that piece of luggage. It only took up space and became a hindrance. It seemed like each week we were moving it around just to make everything fit. But one afternoon in frustration my wife decided to get rid of it. The same thing must happen in marriage; we must get rid of the hindrance from the relationship. “Getting rid of something” by definition requires change. I can say from experience that moving around that luggage in the closet may have work for a while but in the end it needed to go.
Getting rid of the hindrance of sin means change. This is why there are three foundational truths that must drive our marriages.
First, repentance and forgiveness: You are a sinner by nature and choice. You have issues and failures in your own life. This is compounded when you marry a sinner. When you sin you inevitably drag your spouse through the mire with you. While we may have an understanding of our own sinfulness and hindrances, the temptation when your spouse sins against you is to hold it against them. Vindictive and revengeful attitudes won’t remedy the situation. Judging your spouse and casting the first stone won’t help either. Acknowledging your speck before removing your spouse’s log is the first step of repentance. This will require you to change through humble repentance to God and your spouse. Your closet is filled with sinful luggage that must be removed. Repentance leads to forgiveness. Forgiveness is the key to a gospel-centered marriage.
Second, Grace and Mercy: God saves His people by His grace. God’s grace is scandalous to think about. God graciously forgives sinners through the atoning death of Jesus. Our entire relationship with the Lord is grounded in grace and mercy. This ought to overflow into our relationship with our spouse. Grace is not the “overlooking” of sin. Instead grace is choosing to treat them the way you would want to be treated. Treat them as Christ has treated you. Also grace is not “excusing” sin. When Christ die in our place He didn’t “overlook or excuse” our sin. Rather He dealt with our sin by taking it upon Himself. Following this example it is imperative to graciously deal with sin in the marriage. Overlooking or excusing sin will inevitably result in more issues. Acknowledging sin, repenting of it and showing grace stands in contrast to judging our spouse. Christ doesn’t come to His child in judgment. Instead, He treats them with redemptive grace. The principle in James 2:13 must be applied our marriages: “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
Third, Love and Commitment: Love is choosing to embrace your spouse in spite of their sin. Love is accepting this reality and committing yourself to that sinner. Love is going out of your way to address the uncomfortable nature of our failures. “Love is” according to Paul,
“ …patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Ultimately Jesus is the model of this type of love. As we treat our spouses with grace, forgive their sin, and love them, we are imitating Christ and proclaiming the gospel to those around us.
An Imperfect Marriage Resting in the Perfect gospel
G.K. Beale in his New Testament Biblical Theology writes,
“As husbands unconditionally love their wives and as wives respond to this love in a faithful manner, they are actors on a redemptive historical stage performing a play before the on looking audience of the world….their roles are an object lesson for the watching world.”
Marriage is about being intentional in every area of the relationship. This is why repenting when you’re wrong, showing grace with your spouse, and loving for each other is critical for a healthy, growing, and godly marriage. Christ offers us grace, allowing us to repent, and loving us while we are sinners. We don’t deserve it, but He takes our sinful luggage away. The reality is even in our imperfect marriages we must rest in the perfect gospel, trusting in the finished work of Christ on behalf of His Bride. As we seek to glorify God in our marriages, we need to be prepared to acknowledge our own luggage containing our sin and throw ourselves completely upon the perfect righteousness of Christ who carries away the garbage of our sin, and casts it away as far as the east is to the west.