Let’s consider Jesus’ example in the Upper Room and discover some aspects of what we are called to be in our marriages.
Be A Servant
Jesus poured water in a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded [John 13:5]. When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet He was performing the job of the lowest servant. Jesus had every right to expect the disciples to volunteer to clean His feet after all He is the Master. Nevertheless, Jesus gives us this classic example of a servant’s attitude. Jesus told us that He did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many [Mk. 10:44-45]. A servant seeks to fulfill someone else’s agenda and their own desires must yield to attain the master’s plan.
So, as you consider your marriage are you seeking to serve your spouse or be served?
Imagine a pre-marital counseling session where the pastor asks, “What do you want from the relationship?” What is the likelihood of ever hearing someone respond, “I just want to serve my spouse”? The absence of a desire to serve our spouse is often directly related to difficulty in our relationships.
The absence of a desire to serve our spouse is often directly related to difficulty in our relationships.
Similarly, when we serve to accomplish our own agenda it is not really serving, but manipulating. For example, when we tell our spouse all the wonderful things we did for them and then ask them what they are going to do for us [or tell them what we want them to do for us]. A servant is to serve without his own agenda and without attempting to manipulate.
A servant is to serve without his own agenda and without attempting to manipulate.
In the Upper Room, Jesus reveals that one of the twelve would betray Him. John records that the disciples looked at one another wondering about which one of them He spoke [Jn. 13:21-22]. Mark tells us that they asked “Is it I?” [Mk. 14:18-19] Similarly, Luke notes that the disciples talked amongst themselves [Lu. 22:21-23]. It is important to see that the disciples did not all turn and point to Judas and accuse him. Furthermore, and perhaps more important, the disciples did not point at one another and blame each other.
It is good and wise to ask the question “Is it I?”. Too often we are ready to blame someone else for the problems we are experiencing in our relationships. Like Adam in the Garden, when God confronts us about our sin, we are likely to seek to avoid responsibility. Adam responded to God and said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” Adam not only attempts to shift the blame from himself to Eve, but he also blames God [“It’s your fault God You gave her to me”].
In over 25 years of counseling experience I’ve heard only one person come and confess that the problem(s) were his fault and that he needed help. Essentially, all of the couples I counsel are convinced that the problem is primarily their spouse. I am persuaded that if we were to humble ourselves and honestly approach the Lord and ask “Is it I” that many marriages would be restored.
The Body of Christ would greatly benefit from an increase in a surgical procedure called the “logectomy.” In Matthew 7:1-5 Jesus tells us that before we go judging one another, we need to remove the log from our own eye that we would be able to see clearly to remove the splinter from another person’s eye. It is interesting to note that the splinter and the log are both from the same material. Similarly, Paul notes that often when we judge others we practice the same thing [Rom. 2:1]. It has been observed that our sins always look worse on others.
…our sins always look worse on others.
For example, picture two people talking about what a terrible gossip a third person is. Or imagine a husband accusing his spouse of being selfish because she is not thinking of him as often as he is thinking of himself.
So, as you consider your marriage, what attitudes and behaviors do you need change?
Pray and ask God to reveal where you need to repent (without considering where your spouse is wrong). Humbly ask God to change you, and ask your spouse for forgiveness. Humbly trust that God will also work in your spouse to produce healing and restoration.
In the Upper Room, Jesus declares a new commandment, that we love one another as He has loved us and by this all will know we are His disciples [Jn. 13:34-35].
First, we should note that this is a commandment, not a suggestion.
Second, it is important to remember that the Old Testament had previously commanded us to love our neighbor as we love our self [Lev. 19:18]. Jesus elevated the standard so that we are to love as He loves.
Jesus’ love is described as follows:
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up, does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails [1Cor. 13:4-8].
When you read this description of love and insert “Jesus” every place where you see the term “love” it flows perfectly. On the other hand, when I insert my name and read the text again there are some obvious shortcomings that are revealed. For example, when I contemplate that Jesus is longsuffering or patient, I’m convicted that I may show patience with people that I work with and be impatient with my wife. Since I want to show Karen that I love her, I need to allow God to transform me to be patient with her.
In addition we want to learn how our spouse desires to be loved.
…we want to learn how our spouse desires to be loved.
If my wife is seeking help with the laundry and trash, she is likely to feel more loved when I help with trash and laundry than if I buy her flowers.
Third, Jesus says when we love as He loves, it will be a testimony and proof that we are His. In other words, this love displayed in our relationships would be a litmus test that we have a genuine relationship with Christ. As spiritual leaders we are aware of our need to display Christ-like character and love in our marriages, and we also want to help others to do the same. When I follow Jesus’ example and do these things I am blessed [happy and content] just as Jesus promised [Jn. 13:14-17]. Also I’m more likely to be a blessing to my wife, and sons. I’ve come to understand that my example in my home is the primary place where I want to demonstrate that my love for Jesus is real.
…my example in my home is the primary place where I want to demonstrate that my love for Jesus is real.
Finally, as spiritual leaders there is an inherent pressure to follow Jesus’ example perfectly. As noble as this desire is, it is also unrealistic that it shall be attained this side of eternity. Thus our goal is to grow and be more Christ-like in our marriages.