On a sunny fall day in ’02, my daughter Sarah and I were driving to town to get some wedding preparations started. Enthralled with the happiness of her recent engagement, she dreamily sighed, “Mom, I just don’t deserve Jason.”
My instinct, because of my love for Sarah, was to immediately respond, “Of course you do!” But I didn’t say anything. Thoughts of how God blesses us, even when we don’t deserve it, went around in my mind. Then almost at the same time that I thought it, Sarah said, “It’s just like us with God, isn’t it? He loved us even when we didn’t deserve it!”
I had certainly thought about how marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church, but until then, I had pictured it merely in the context of marriage itself. For sure, my own marriage had been one of my greatest teachers, pointing me to Christ. But it seemed like a whole new, deeper dimension of understanding opened up as I saw my children go through the excitement and joy of loving and being loved by someone.
When Sarah made that comment, it occurred to me that the picture of Christ and His love for the Church began way back, long before marriage. In His choosing us, seeking us out, rescuing us, loving us even when we didn’t deserve it, God demonstrated His amazing, undeserved, limitless, powerful love for us.
An “amazing marriage” begins with understanding this truly “amazing love.”
In 2 Corinthians 5:14, we’re told that, “the love of Christ controls us.” “Love” doesn’t control us. Even “loving like Jesus does” doesn’t control us. But the amazing “love of Christ” controls us.
What is “the love of Christ?” Verse 15 defines it: “He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.”
Therefore, we are no more controlled by our own selfish desires, but by the intense “God-centeredness” that is generated when we truly understand our own weakness and failure, and the undeserved act of love that He has done for us, that we could not do.
Several summers ago, I was impacted with a surprisingly greater understanding of such amazing, undeserved love when a friend gave us tickets to see a live performance of “Man of LaMancha,” not a show I would have chosen to see, despite the fact that live theater is something Dan and I really enjoy together. Not surprisingly, this show troubled me.
In it, the main character, Don Quixote, falls in love with an abused, mistreated prostitute, always regarding her, incomprehensibly, as a beautiful treasure. The woman could not comprehend his love for her, especially while suffering after a gang rape in which she was the victim, and became furious over what she perceived as his mocking her horrible state.
Yet over time, as he continued to woo her, she gradually began to comprehend that he truly did see beyond the vileness of the way she saw herself, and ultimately, she was drawn irresisitibly into a pure, unfathomable love that changed the very nature of who she was.
We drove home, silent from the impact of the performance, until I finally said, “Dan, we had to see the ugliness of her life, didn’t we? How would we ever have known the depth of his love for her, and that amazing forgiveness, if we hadn’t?”
Sin is ugly. Sometimes in life, ugly things happen, and it’s so painful. But if we never saw the ugliness of life, how would we truly understand what it is that God has saved us from, or the fullness of God’s forgiveness and the unfathomable love He has for us, His Bride? In the truest sense, our lives are part of a great drama that God Himself wrote before the foundations of the world, a demonstration of amazing, perfect love like no other! We’re not the star of this show. He is. Yet because He is the center, we live.
Some have tried to describe our salvation as God’s holding out a gift of love to the individual who ponders and decides whether or not he will accept the gift. But that picture does not even remotely express the intense degree of His powerful intervention of divine love toward us!
In reality, we were more like a completely helpless individual drowning in a riptide, being swept by the powerful current out into the endless abyss of the sea, totally without hope! Without Christ, we were dead in our trespasses and sins. All of us were.
Then, incredibly, a strong Hand appeared and grabbed us by the scruff of the neck, snatching us out of the raging seas, breathed His life into the deadness of who we were, and brought us to His safe shelter. How else could we possibly respond, except to embrace our Savior with unspeakable gratitude, and love Him every day of our lives! We were dead, but He gave us life.
Like the woman in the story “Man of LaMancha,” those of us (men and women) who have been rescued by Christ eventually came to the climax of our own deficiencies, overwhelmed by the incomprehensible love that Christ kept wooing us with, and found ourselves irresistibly drawn into a truly wonderful reciprocal love, deep and very, very good. We didn’t choose Him. He chose us, not because we were great material for His Story, but because we were the raw material that He could form, through which His amazing glory would be shown. (*John 15:16) That is the amazing love of Christ.
And here is probably the greatest testimony of this amazing, covenant love that the world will ever see. “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…that he might present the church to Himself in splendor…[Therefore] let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 45:24-33.)
Marriage is a call to show the world a living, moving picture of this deep, unbreakable covenant love that Christ has for His Church–of the sacrifice, the forgiveness, the great depth of gratitude, the joy, the freedom, the intimate life that is shared between a husband and his bride. What an awesome calling!
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