The Foundation of Healthy Relationships
I want to welcome you to Alpine Bible Church, if you’re first time here, and I want to invite all of us First Corinthians, chapter 13, and Genesis chapter 2. I’m going to lay a foundation this morning, and it’s going to take me a few minutes to get those passages of scripture. But those are the primary texts that I want us to hone in on today. As we talk about the topic of ideal family. I’m just going to be honest with you today, this week is one of those weeks where you didn’t happen to this, but this week happened to me. I feel like my voice is about to go out here in just a little while, so I cut this down just a little bit to get through the significance of what we’re going to talk about.
Today we’re starting a new series on the ideal family. I hope that you can see in just the title, the play on words, that we’re going to go through together. The ideal family, there’s two ways you can look at it. You can either have the ideal family, or it’s ideal with my family, right? When God created us, he created us for relationship, and those relationships to be a blessing, and not for us to just survive them, but for them to thrive.
In fact, when God created the first relationships in this world, he then looks at Adam and Eve and he says, “Go into this world and bless others and those relationships.” And so, when those relationships are lived the way that God has called us to live through them, and in them, it’s not only beneficial to those directly involved with the relationship, but it’s also beneficial to those outside of the realm of the depth of that relationship.
This doesn’t just have to relate to the thought of being married. I think, because of what we’re going to do in laying the foundation today, that this is practical for all of us. Kid, husband, wife, single, whatever. However you find yourself in life. The idea of the health of relationship hovers around one concept that I want to help us lay that foundation for today.
We talk about the ideal family, one of the things that I want us to know is the ideal family is not the perfect family. Perfection does not exist, right? Unless you’re married to me, and then, no I’m just kidding. Perfection does not exist. A Godly marriage, when you think about the ideal family, a Godly marriage isn’t about avoiding conflict. You will have it. Instead, it’s more about deciding who you want to spend the rest of your life fighting with, and how you’re going to respond to those conflicts that arise.
You’re going to have conflict, right? And if you get married, and you think it’s about avoiding conflict, you might as well forget marriage. But do you love them enough to go into that conflict with them? And how you respond to that conflict becomes important. Ruth Graham, the late Ruth Graham, married to Billy Graham, she was asked once, “Have you ever thought about divorce?” Of which she immediately responded, “Nope. But I’ve thought about murder.” Experience right? Wisdom. There is conflict.
When we talk about a series called ideal, or the ideal family, our goal isn’t the perfect family. Our goal isn’t for you to listen to this series and figure out what your family is doing wrong so that you can go help them be perfect by nagging them. Don’t just listen to this in some [inaudible 00:03:20], try to send this to someone as if to sort of say something by not saying something. Like, nagging people produces the opposite of what you want. What maybe you even desire, and more importantly, I think what God deserves.
So we’re not going to go about this manipulating or control. You can’t control or you shouldn’t try to control or manipulate hearts. In fact, I’m just being honest, when you get into relationships, if you feel like it becomes your obligation to control what someone else does, when things don’t work out, you wear that guilt, shame, like walk around as if you’re the failure. But the reality is, you’re not responsible for what other people do.
What God calls you to be is responsible for you. So, when we think about the ideal family we want to lay a foundation today, here’s what we really want to talk about. Not the people next to you. We want to talk about us. Me. Where’s my part. What’s God’s plan for me in the reactions of my relationships around me? What is my target? Ideal family is not a perfect family. Whether it be church family, or your personal family, it’s not a perfect family, but it’s about understanding your place in those relationships for what God has called you to.
When the Bible talks about responsibility in relationships, it teaches us one phrase idea, one term, and that is covenant relationship. Covenant relationship is more than just getting along. It’s really the basis for human flourishing. When you read in the Gospel of Luke, at the end of Jesus’ life, in the thought of covenant relationships, he says this, “He took the cup at the last supper, after they have eaten sang, ‘This cup which poured our for you is a new covenant in my blood.'” Covenant relationship. In this new covenant, what Jesus is inviting us to is relationship. He’s demonstrating the basis for this relationship. He’s giving us a target through this relationship, and notice when Jesus provides this covenant relationship to us, he doesn’t force us into it. He simply lays the foundation for it.
In order to have healthy relationships, there is a responsibility of both parties, but it takes two willing parties, committed towards covenant relationship. But in this covenant relationship then, through Jesus, we find that relationship shapes our identity and purpose. Because of what Jesus has done for us, in our response to him in that, whether you embrace him or don’t embrace him, that relationship affects our lives. It gives us purpose and identity. It gives us a target.
This word ‘covenant’ is important in the Bible. In likeness, the other place that we find covenant in scriptures is in dealing with marriage. You think in church, that God’s given the church I think, three ordinances to practice. The first two, many people are familiar with is communion and baptism. But I think the third one is marriage, and the reason for that is because, all three of them deal with covenant. Like today, we’re going to partake of communion, which relates to covenant. That covenant gives us identity, gives us direction, gives us a target, gives us a place for which to respond in who we are and what we are about.
My relationship to Jesus, because his covenant towards me impacts my life. It becomes the foundation for how I respond to all other things in this world. Marriage is another one. Most intimate of relationships. Relationship with God, relationship with others. This is why we say, when it comes to your life, the two most important questions that you will answer is, who is your God, and if you get married, who will you marry? Those covenants are sacred.
In Malachi 2:14, this is sort of negative statement, but it emphasizes the importance of covenant. Look at this, he’s talking to a husband and says, “The Lord no longer regards the offering, or accepts it with favor from your hands.” And then the person responds, “Yet, you say, ‘For what reason God?’ Why are you not accepting my offering and what I’m doing?”
And it says this, “Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion,” look at this, “and your wife by covenant.” God cares about covenant relationship.
So much so that the way you respond in covenant relationship impacts your relationship with God. God’s desire in this passage is for this person to see how his relationship impacts his relationship with God, so he fixes his horizontal relationship so that vertically, he walks with the Lord.
So covenant becomes the foundation for how we respond. In fact, this covenant puts us, really, on mission. It gives us a target. If you were to even look at the idea of marriage covenant in scripture. The Bible, when it describes marriage, it doesn’t talk to us in terms of, in the New Testament here, in these quotes, how they’re listed above, it doesn’t talk to us in terms of what you get, but rather how you respond, what you are to give.
When God comes to you in the idea of marriage in the context of scripture, it almost always is in description of how you, then, respond in covenant relationships.
So, what is a covenant? When you think about in terms of covenant, and our culture, we’re familiar more with contract. And a covenant is different than modern day contract. A contract is about 50/50. It’s the exchanging of goods. It’s about, you do something for me, and then I get this. I’ll do something for you, you get this. It’s about what you can take, what you want.
The idea of covenant is more along the lines of 100/100. Rather than 50/50, it’s a 100%/100%. Your interests going into covenant relationship isn’t about what you get. You think about Jesus giving us covenant relationship, but Jesus doesn’t need anything from you. He’s God. He’s more than capable. But the reason Jesus comes to this relationship is because he’s a being of love, and love gives itself away. When he enters into this covenant relationship, it’s all about what he gives. Covenant relationship is all about living your life for the purpose of blessing another’s. Using all that God has given you to help someone else become all that God has called them to be.
Covenant is laying your life down for the benefit of another. When a covenant relationship is established, the evidence for that is love. You think when Jesus spoke to his disciples and says “A new covenant I give unto you.” He also talks about, then shortly after that, a new commandment.
In John 13:34, “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love another, even as I have loved you. That you also love one another. By this, all men will know you are my disciples. If you have love for one another.”
What you see in this passage is through this relationship with God, you are loved, and when you embrace this relationship, and enter in covenantal relationship with God, when you see his covenantal love towards you, and you respond saying, “I want that. I want to belong,” then your response is 100/100. “I give myself fully back to you.” And so, when it comes to loving God, how does a human being respond but by loving what God loves?
God’s not tangibly here. But God created this world for his glory, and so my display, and my love towards God is demonstrated by the way I love what God loves, which is what makes covenant relationship, regardless of where you are in life, whether single, a family of one, or there’s multiple people within the context of your family. Jesus defines in covenant relationship in how we respond in this world around us. That’s why God calls his church a family, because we understand within the context of this family, that the difference in worldly love and our love is significant because if we’re not contractual, we’re covenantal. All that we are for his glory, to the benefit of those around us. When I love him, I love the people around me.
I lay it down. In fact, when we are loved that way, the way Jesus has loved us, I think it becomes the foundation, the strength is what gives us the ability to then, respond in love ourselves. It’s when you have worth, value, and meaning, when you belong, when you’re loved, when you feel appreciated, that you reciprocate in love. That’s what makes your relationship with Jesus so foundational. Understanding that covenant, because that’s what Jesus has done for you.
In fact, look at this, in Ephesians 5, when it starts talking about relationships, the beauty of Ephesians is, when you get to chapter 4, it tells us how to start responding in relationship. And then Paul gets very practical, and he says, “Look, [inaudible 00:12:57] and affect, mostly affect, your marital relationship because this is an expression of the gospel. It’s the way Jesus has come into your life, you want to live that out foremost in the marriage, in the home. That becomes your primary place of ministry.”
And look what he says, “Husbands, love your wives. The foundation of covenantal commitment is love. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Look at this, your basis for loving your wife is the example of Jesus’ love over you. It’s because you’ve been loved that you respond in love. That covenantal relationship is the foundation to move through everything. I want to keep explaining why, but a covenantal relationship with Jesus becomes the foundation for everything. All that he is for me, all that I am for him, and demonstrated, “Husbands, love your wife, just as Christ loved the church.”
And notice this example he now gives too, because when we talk about unconditional, sacrificial love in our lives, we can begin to say to God, “God, but don’t you know who I married?” They’re not always easy, right? And Jesus’ response here is, “Yeah, neither are you.”
My church isn’t perfect. The church as blemishes, but you’re going to be mean to Jesus’ bride? Talk bad about my wife, and see how many black eyes you leave with. Jesus knows his church isn’t perfect. But your relationship to that, and your covenantal love for Jesus is expressed to help that church become more beautiful in the eyes of Christ. Helping that church give himself to her, and so look, it says in Ephesians 5:25, in talking about Jesus here, he says, “So that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in her glory.”
Jesus’ love, he recognizes in these two verses, his love is what cleanses her, and that his desire in continuing to love her becomes more beautiful. And through that love, he presents to her, this bride adorned. So basis of our love, in covenantal love, is the experience of Christ love in our lives, and through that love, then we’re able to love beyond that, which is why Jesus then gives you the greatest commands to love others.
We think in terms of love, and the way that you recognize covenant love in the New Testament, there are different words for love in scripture, but in the Old Testament and New Testament, they had a particular word that described covenant love. In the New Testament, it was agape, and the Old Testament was ahabah. Agape love is unconditional, sacrificial love. It’s a love of the will, rather than a love of the emotion. It’s the decision of your life regardless of sometimes the feelings that come, is to continue to give yourself for the benefit of someone else.
I think the passage in the Bible that best describes this is 1 Corinthians 13. Listen to these phrases, and you often see this read at weddings, but I want you to know, when you read this passage of scripture, it’s not in the context of marriage. However, because covenantal love is expressed in a deep form in the marital relationship, I think anytime you talk about agape love, which is covenantal love, you can begin to apply this very easily to the marital relationship. It says, “Thank you. Love patient. Love is kind, is not jealous, does not brag, is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly. It does not seek its own. It is not provoked. Does not take into account her own suffering. Does not rejoice in righteousness, but it rejoices with truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
When you read a passage like that, maybe you’re like me, but I always start with myself, and you say, “You know what? Seems like every sentence, I can always point back to a failure.” But I want you to know, when you enter into a relationship, a covenantal relationship, marriage before the Lord, or you understand what Jesus has called you to, and living in love for him, you’re not going to be perfect. But I think that target becomes important, because it helps us identify for those that we’re in relationship with, “You know, I failed her, but this is who I want to be. The reason I want to be this is because I care about you. The reason I care about you is, I want you to be everything God calls you to be. His love for you is greater than my love, but I want to be a demonstration of that love.”
And so, in 1 Corinthians, it starts to describe this agape love, and I think the reason we need reminded of Biblical love is, we’re really bad at understanding love, especially in our culture. I often use this illustration, but there’s a story of a rabbi walking along the side of a shore, and a young man caught a fish, and he’s cooking the fish. And the rabbi comes up to him, and he’s eating the fish. He’s like, “I love this fish. Man, I love this fish.” He’s just eating it, devouring it. And the rabbi goes by him and says, “You know, you don’t love that fish.”
He’s like, “What, are you kidding? Man, I love this fish.”
Says, “No, if you love the fish, you wouldn’t have killed the fish. Truth is, you don’t love the fish. What you love is yourself, and that’s why you devoured the fish.”
And the reality is, and our definition of love within our culture, that’s really what we do in relationship. It’s not love, though we use the term love. Oftentimes, in relationship, we don’t come to people because of what we want to give. We come to people because of what we want to get. We use them as a tool. Like, you ask, “Why did you get married?”
“I don’t want to be lonely. I want to be secure.” I think security and finding companionship are important, but you notice the motivation of statements are about self. Agape love is about the giving away for the benefit of others.
The irony in getting married based on what you get is that, really, neither of you end up happy because it’s an exchanging of goods. It’s a contract. A 50/50. “I love you as long as it makes me happy. I give and get. It’s about how I can be pleased.” But you when you live for the basis of what you get, you end up being takers rather than givers, and no one ends up happy, but if two people get married based on what they can give, there’s a covenantal relationship. You can only get to use the gifts to bless others. They’re also filled by the other person who has a heart to give. Does that make sense?
So, when you get into a relationship for the purpose of giving yourself away, and both people understand covenantal relationship, not only are blessing another person’s life by the way that you give, your life is being filled up because they’re also holding the same concern for your heart. And the result of that is, not only is that marriage now filled up and blessed, but relationships around them.
Perhaps, I think the best verse that really sums it all up, is the very next verse in this section of scripture, verse 8, it says this, “Love never fails. Love never fails.” You think about healthy relationship and the ideal family, I know where people want to go from the beginning of something like that. It’s like, “Yes. We’ve got this function, and I want to kill it. I want to get rid of it. How do we fix it? Tell me now.” But the basis, before you can ever get to a place like that is to understand the position. Covenantal love.
“Love never fails.” You know what that’s saying? That’s a love that’s for you. Some of us can read verses like this and immediately think about the past, of the pain that we’ve gone through by not experiencing this. When love had failed, right? Man, if you could find love that would never fail, how would you feel? Do you know what true covenantal love breeds? Intimacy. It’s safe, it’s secure, it builds trust, it creates intimacy. “No matter what happens, I’m for you.” That feels really good. “No matter what happens, I’m for you. We’re going to work on this together.”
When you come in covenantal love, when you approach covenantal love, and there is conflict, when you know that the care for each other is covenantal, you could approach the conflict because you know that each person is for the benefit of the other person. Whereas, when you come towards conflict, and all you want to do is handle the problem, you can approach that to the detriment of the individual. But when the basis is covenantal love, you know that they’re for you. There’s trust, there’s intimacy, even in failure. That’s why in Christianity, we say, sometimes we can look at God religiously, where you feel like God only loves you based on what you do. That’s not true. God dies for you while you’re a sinner, which is why, when you mess up, the healthiest thing you can do is not try to fix it on your own, but run straight to the arms of God, because Jesus has already paid for it. His love never fails.
The health of marital relationship is to fight for that purpose because the tension in our lives, when conflict happens, is to begin to become aggressive towards one another, rather than love each other and go towards the challenge together.
Conflict creates division. You know, when God created us in the beginning, in Genesis 2, here’s what he said, “For this reason, a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife,” and look at this, “and they shall become one flesh.” Love never fails. What is there in this verse? Intimacy, security, trust for me.
Now, I know in our minds sometimes you can think towards the relationships that you have, and say, “You know, I’m not getting that there,” but the best way to lay the foundation to get to there is to model it. Love never fails.
I think Adam’s life, he really demonstrated this in just the verse previous to this. These last two verses of Genesis 2, look what happens with Adam. He says this, “For God fashioned into a woman, the rib, which he had taken from the man, and brought her to him. And the man said, ‘This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman because she’s taken out of the man.'”
First thing Adam did when he sees his bride God created for him, he didn’t say, “Okay. What is it you’re going to do for me?” Like, “Oh, you don’t even know how to cook yet. You haven’t been around an oven.” That’s a negative, right? “I can’t do this. Can’t do this, God.” Right? That’s not what he does. He doesn’t give her this checklist. Rather, what he does is, he sees her as a gift. And the first words man speaks, it’s a song. He sings a song over his bride. Perfect or not, she’s God’s gift to him.
When something happens in the dating relationship, right? If you ever meet a person that doesn’t think they’re ever going to have conflict in a relationship, I know who they are. They’re engaged couples. And you know what that’s like. You just look into each other’s eyes, and just, “All these marriage books out there, those are for everyone else. We’re just different. We’re never going to have conflict. I love you.” Why? Even in the flaws, you saw her as a gift. You were for her. Whatever it took to spend time together.
When is the last time you saw your spouse as a gift? Over time, what happens, we get jaded in our experiences. I mean, it’s not always easy. Start throwing kids around there, other relationships, jobs, complexity of life, responsibility, it starts pulling away from that covenantal relationship, but this relationship becomes the place where everything else begins to thrive. The world is blessed, and that is built on that relationship with the Lord.
You start seeing, rather than your spouse as a delight, you start seeing them as a duty. Like, what if I went home and knocked on my front door, surprised my wife, got a babysitter, and ring the doorbell. Wife answers, Stacy answers. She comes out. Or Virginia, depending on, have you guys read that article? Some of you read that article? It’s great. Virginia answers, and she says, “Where’s Stacy?” No, I’m just kidding. My wife’s name is Stacy. So Stacy answers, and I’m standing there with a bouquet of flowers, and she says, “What are the flowers for?”
“I’m just giving these to you because I have to. Also, probably should go on a date, so that’s my responsibility. Let’s just continue the duty.” Or suppose I ring the doorbell, and she says, “What’s this?”
“Well, they’re for you.”
“They’re for me? Where are the kids?”
“Oh, I got a babysitter. We’re heading out. There’s nothing I’d rather do tonight than just spend time with you. You’re the most important thing in the world to me.” Duty or delight, right?
We experience the delight, or the gift of what a relationship is, and we appreciate it for a gift, rather than a responsibility or a duty. That growth flourishes and happens. You’re going to go through seasons of ups and downs in life, but building into that covenantal community, which God has created for you, becomes important to how those relationships thrive, however, your relationships look in life. I’m talking in terms of church, or marriage. You’re going to go through up and down seasons, and you’re not an expert at any of those things. But love lived helps those thrive.
I heard a story of a guy once, that said, “You know, I just can’t get rid of these weeds. They’re driving me crazy.” He tried all this weed killer, and finally this farmer came up to him and said, “Look, your problem is, you’re so focused on the weeds, you forgot about just the health of the grass. If you just nourish the grass, and strengthen the grass, it’ll kill that weed.”
Sometimes when we come to these thoughts of ideal marriage, and we just want a checklist of how to fix a problem, the reality is, it’s not just simply the problem you’ve got to start with, but the basis and the framework for how you move forward. The strength of the relationship. Sometimes if you just grow the strength of the relationship, some of the garbage that pulls away just falls to the side.
In my marriage, I try to think of an example of success and failure, so here you go. When my wife and I first got married, I’ve used this example before, but when I my wife and I first got married, she told me she hates washing the dishes. So I think, “Well, I mean, no one really signs up to wash dishes, but I love my wife. So, to see her as a gift, I will wash the dishes, and when I wash the dishes, I just want to worship the Lord, because she’s a gift to me.”
You think about this, the way you choose to love your spouse, God not only cares, but it’s also worship before him. The way you choose to love people around you, because of his covenantal relationship to you, is not just God cares about that, but it’s also worship before him. Why? Because my wife is a gift, and it tells us in Malachi 2:14, “She’s the covenant of my marriage.”
And so, when I wash dishes, this is weird to even think about, but you can worship. But in my legalistic brain, I had a different opinion about the trash. Come to find out, my family, I need to look this up, the medical condition, but we’re allergic to the trash. In fact, it’s very common for me to come home, and it’s like, they’d rather play the game of Jenga than take the trash out. I used to come home and grumble. I’d go to the trash can, I’m like, “Man, all you guys, man. Trash on the floor now. You lost the Jenga game today.” You take out the trash, and then I finally had this change of heart. I’m like, “Well, why am I like that over dishes, but not trash?” I’ve got a kid that’s eight years old, almost nine years old. I’ve already turned my head, “Nine years old, you’re taking out the trash.” But he just can’t quite get it out yet.
But I just decided, “Man, what am I doing? You’re wife fights all day long.” I watch her. Call her a superhero, right? Because like, I’m responsible for the kids, and if I get to the end of the day and we just survived, I’m like, “We did it! [inaudible 00:31:01]!” And then my wife, not only does she watch the kids, and does ministry, and takes care of the things all day long, but it’s like, when I see them it’s like, they didn’t just sustain life, which is my goal. To keep them alive. They advance and progress in life. It’s like, they’ve become better people by the end of the day. How does she do that? I can take out the trash with a smile on my face, so I just started going to the trash and being like, when I walk in now, the first thing I say is, “Ah, my family loves me, because they’ve given me a place to serve them. To show my covenantal love, and to teach my sons. A reminder of me as dad, to teach my kids.”
I think, there’s coming up, women’s retreat less than two weeks. Women’s retreat, my wife’s gone. I’m already worried about this. Not only is it just one day taking care of the kids, it’s 48 hours, and then I’ve got to get them cleaned, into church, and to preach a sermon, and then the ladies return. It’s like, “Forward! I’m for you, and [inaudible 00:32:02] my wife! It’s laying my life down! Covenantal love!”
But giving yourself for the benefit, relationships thrive when people commit the covenantal love. Let me end it by answering these questions quickly. What if you’re single? What if you’re single, and you’re wanting to get married”? How do you find the right person that understands covenantal love? Who doesn’t want the “Love never fails”? Who doesn’t want that in marital relationship, where like, “I want to find someone. I want to give my life for them, and to lay it down, and to just help them become all that God’s call to me into that. Now, how do I know that someone is ready for that?”
When you marry someone, you definitely want to be attracted, right? Make sure that they’re a healthy person for marriage. I would say a physical attraction is important, but character is a crucial part of this attraction, to determine if someone will be in covenantal love toward you. Physical attraction is good, but only outwardly important. Character is the jewel.
A good wife, it tells us in Proverbs 31:10, “She is the crown jewel.” Talking about the content of character. Matt Chandler said it like this, “There is no cosmetic surgery for poverty of character.” Character is who you are when no one is looking. There’s a good reason scripture calls the church “the family.” When it talks to the church about finding leadership, the place that it wants to go is, immediately it starts talking about, find leaders based on their character. And then it goes on describing those persons of character being demonstrated in that character through how they treat their personal family, because it becomes an example of how they’re going to live in the greater family of God.
You need Godly character for covenantal love. When I talk about character, if you’re asking the question, “I’m single. How do I find that person?” When I talk about character, I want to be very specific and say what I’m talking about is Christian character. The Bible encourages Christians to marry Christians. Why does it do that? Some people get frustrated by that. Why does it do that? It’s like, God is trying to limit you, right? I don’t think God’s against you. I think he’s for you. And he understands without a commitment to covenantal love, marriage is hard enough. But also intended to bless the world around you, when it’s understood the right way. That shift in your mind of contractual love to covenantal love is so important to that foundation.
In 1 Corinthians 7:39, if you want to have that verse, or 1 Corinthians 9:5, both of those passages, it’s encouraging believers to marry believers. Why would it do that? Number one is, you’re operating from the same foundation. Basis for family, purpose for relationship. Number two is your marriage is intended to model the gospel. Husbands, love your wife as Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for her. “Submit,” it tells you in verse 21 of Ephesians 5, “To one another in the Lord. Wives, respect your husband as unto the Lord.”
But number three, I would say that’s the most important. A true Christian should have already demonstrated a life that has given itself for the benefit of another, and what I mean is, their relationship to Jesus. “How do I know someone is ready to enter in covenantal love with me?” Because, the way they express their covenantal love towards Christ. Have they died to their selves to give their lives to the Lord?
And I don’t mean just listen to them, by the words of their lip, and just saying, “Oh, I’m a Christian, too.” That’s not what I mean. I mean, does their life really lay down for Jesus? Have they already demonstrated life of covenantal love? Some of the ways you can know this, how do they treat people? Or, in a social setting, how do they treat the least important person in the room? The person they have the least to gain from? Grocery store clerk, whatever. Fast food restaurant, whatever. How do they treat those individuals? How do they treat authority over them? How do they respect their parents, or honor them? Meet someone that, the people they know, the people that, you know, anytime you’re dating someone, they’re always going to put their best foot forward. They want to impress you. But, meet the people they have known for awhile, that have seen the cannon sides of them when they’ve gone through adversity, to see if covenantal love is what’s demonstrated in their lives.
If you can’t be content with someone’s character where they are in that moment, it won’t get better in marriage. Or at least, rarely it does. Everyone can think they’re great at marriage, but you know what happens when you get under a roof with someone else 24 hours a day, seven days a week? At some point, your flaws come out. Being content with where their character is now, is important.
What if you’re married to someone that’s not a Christian, then? By the way, 1 Corinthians 7 speaks to all sorts of aspects of the marital life, but what if you’re married to someone that’s not a believer? I would tell you, because of your covenantal relationship with Jesus, 1 Corinthians 7:12 and on, into verse 16 and 17 describes this, specifically. I would say that the beauty of that moment is you get to be Jesus to people that God cares about. God loves your spouse, too, just as you do.
Being in that place to demonstrate covenantal relationship, praying for them, loving on them is important. Being a light for Christ, wherever you go, especially in that relationship, God is most interested in that covenant relationship. You’re first ministry is to your family. That’s why it’s the basis for Christian leadership in scripture.
The one if you’re married, how do we apply this when you’re married? Tim Keller says, “Marriage is the mack truck driving through your life. Revealing your flaws and humbling your reactions. Marriage can itself sometimes be the suffering that breaks us open to reveal what we truly worship.” It really shows us where our flaws are. Where we can better demonstrate 1 Corinthians 13.
You know, it’s interesting, right after Adam sings over his wife in Genesis 2:23, just right after that, sin and this unity in their relationship, covenantal love is just starting to get ripped apart. In fact, it describes it this way, you all know this story, “When the woman saw the tree,” and remember Satan the serpent tempted the woman to eat of the tree, it says, “When the woman saw the tree was good for food, that it was a delight to the eyes, and the tree was desirable make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate, and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.”
Interesting thought on this passage, she eats the fruit. God told Adam not to eat of any tree. He gave that command to Adam, for both of them. And then he allows his wife to go and sit by this tree, and take of the fruit, and look where it says Adam is in this moment. “She took from the fruit of the tree and she gave also to her husband with her.” Adam just sat there. Adam allowed her to literally eat death. Death in her relationship with God. Death in their relationship together.
Guys, can I tell you one of the greatest obstacles we will fight when it comes to covenantal relationship, especially men? Can I tell you the greatest obstacle you’re going to fight when it comes to covenantal relationship? Now, to most guys, if I ask them that question, what they would respond with is, lust. Can I tell you, it’s not lust. The greatest obstacle to your covenantal relationship with your spouse, it’s passivity. It’s not investing in it like it’s a gift.
Genesis 3, right after Adam sings to his wife, he allows her to eat death. He does nothing. Now let’s say, passivity leads to lust rather than woo heart of your wife. More interested in low lying fruit. Some people may argue, “I don’t think passivity is always a problem because I’ve seen guys that are opposite of passive. They’re aggressive,” but I would argue that aggression is really passivity masked. Being aggressive to get you to do what they want so they can go back to being passive.
Passivity is one of the greatest risks to covenantal relationship, and it can be subtle. Leading a home can be a hard job, and passivity is easy to take. I think it’s why men, sometimes prefer to stay at work rather than go home. But if you’re winning at work and losing at home, you’re losing. Men crave respect. In Ephesians 5 it says that, “Wives, respect your husbands,” because men crave respect, and it can be easier to get at work than at home. Why?
Because respect at home is earned. No one is interested in your title or your corner office. You have to lead with love. At work, you get respect for your accomplishments and positions. At home, it comes from your character, and character is not easy. Therefore, it makes it easy to keep working. At home, there is no escaping who you are. Your weaknesses are open. It’s why men are tempted to leave home and go back to work.
Most people prefer the edited version of themselves. The Facebook snapshot they control. You get quick fixes to your problems at work. At home, you work on things that take a lifetime to achieve, because while you’re working on those things, God is working on you, on your character. It’s not just a quick fix to the third quarter of your fiscal year. Reality is, you can change your job. You can get a promotion. But family relationships are forever.
Relationships are the only thing that you take with you from this world. If this thought pricks your heart, our desire should be to see the basis as covenantal relationship and what it is. God desires to do this for you, not only to bless the lives of other people, but to refine in your heart, the understanding of what it means to be in relationship with the Lord.
Guys, no matter where you are today, covenantal relationship with people, can I remind you, God is for you. That’s the basis for thriving in covenantal relationship. I can love not because of what I get, but because of what he has already given. Because of his love, I love in response. The path of covenantal love for us, is the renewing of ourselves every day, and the joy of what it is to walk with Jesus, to be near Jesus, and to live in response like Jesus would respond to the people around us.