Here is one thing we know about Jesus Christ. He went first.
Romans 5:8 says this, But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
While we were still lost, wayward, rebellious and sinful, Jesus took the initiative. He left the glory and perfection of Heaven, took on flesh and made His dwelling among us. He then lived the life that we were designed and called to live. A life of loving God and loving His neighbor. He obeyed His Father in Heaven at all times and in every way. He lived this life perfectly, free from sin.
And in doing so, He was the perfect and acceptable sacrifice for our sin. He was able to pay the penalty for our sin. So that those who place their faith and trust in Him, their sin can be atoned for, or covered by His blood. They can receive the gift of eternal life and salvation.
And then following the cross, He displayed His infinite power and majesty as He rose from the dead on the 3rd day beating sin and death. He proved He was the very Son of God, the Messiah who had been sent to rescue and restore us through faith and by grace.
Jesus went first. He pursued us even while we were wandering off like sheep. He died for us even while we were yet sinners.
And His invitation continues to be to us, come follow me. Follow my example, follow my way of life. Put your trust and faith in me, and by my grace, power, and Word, I will transform you more and more into my image. Jesus went first, so that we might follow Him.
So what does a marriage look like that is seeking to be Christ centered and following Him as a daily way of life? Here are four things:
Love one another, because Jesus has first loved you.
1 John 4:19 says, We love because he first loved us. If we confess Jesus as Lord and Savior of our lives, then we are fully aware that we have been shown such lavish and unconditional love. And so as a result, we can’t help but show such lavish and unconditional love to one another. God is love, and Ephesians 5:1 calls us to be imitators of God. So we love, because He is love.
And 1 Corinthians 13 defines for us what love is. Because the word ‘love’ gets tossed around a lot in our culture, we need to be reminded that in Jesus we see the embodiment of love, and in 1 Corinthians 13, we get some additional descriptions.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant,5 is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs. 6 Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
May those verses be the x-ray light in which you hold your heart up to on a consistent basis in marriage. Asking the Spirit of God to expose the areas that are strong and the areas that need attention, healing, and growth. May your love for one another in your marriage, be a reflection of the love that you have been shown by Jesus first.
Serve one another, because Jesus came to serve, and not to be served.
A couple of Jesus’ disciples wanted to be great. They wanted to sit in a place of authority and their names to be great. Their pride wanted to be in a position of power that lorded authority over people. And to this desire, Jesus said this in Matthew 20.
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions act as tyrants over them. 26 It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
He points them back to Himself. I am the Son of Man, the Son of God, and I did not come to be served, but to serve, and give my life up for the sake of others.
Jesus demonstrated His willingness to serve when He washed the disciples’ feet. Service was a continual posture that Jesus took on. In your marriages, seek to serve your spouse first, and follow the example of Jesus who went first. Serve one another when it is easy, and when you don’t feel like it. Don’t wait to be served, but go first.
Forgive one another, because Jesus has first forgiven you.
Ephesians 4:32 says, And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.
Colossians 3:13 says, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive.
Here is something you already know. Over the course of your marriage, you sin against one another. Your love won’t always reflect that of 1 Corinthians 13. You won’t always seek to serve the other first. You won’t always be as selfless and sacrificial in your love to your spouse, as Jesus has been to you.
In those times, choose to forgive in light of the forgiveness that Jesus has shown to you. Reject the temptation to keep a record of wrongs, or to turn your marriage into a contract where you’re only obligated to do your part, if your spouse does theirs. Instead, walk graciously and compassionately, forgiving because Jesus has first forgiven you.
Humble yourselves, because Jesus first humbled Himself.
Philippians 2:3-5 says, 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. 4 Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus
Then in the verses that follow, we get a picture of the attitude of Jesus. Verse 8 says he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross. On the cross, we see Christ’s attitude of humility on powerful display. Not looking to His own interests, but to the interests of those, like you and me, who were lost.
I’ve been married over 21 years, and I will tell you the Lord has had a way of exposing my pride in the context of my marriage. And He has exposed my pride, because He loves me, and He loves Heather, and He is at work in both of us.
Choose humility, day in and day out. Moment by moment. Put it on like a piece of clothing every day. Lay aside the selfish desires, and consider the other’s interests before your own.
As we follow Christ in our marriages, you will find and see God’s grace at work in your lives. God’s grace is a transforming grace, transforming you more and more into the image of His Son, who went first. May we continually say yes to His transforming work!