“She just seems so much easier to live with than my wife.” It was a conversation over dinner between sessions at a conference, a conversation in a state far from home. The man felt his heart drawn away from his wife or, perhaps more accurately, toward another woman, a woman who was not his wife, a woman in his church, a woman who was another man’s wife. He believed these thoughts were involuntary, that the ideas were extrinsic to him, that Satan was tempting him with a sin perfectly suited to his weaknesses, to his heart idolatries. He was battling hard to keep the temptation from turning into fantasy, and from there to action.
“My wife is difficult to live with at times. She is needy. She is complicated. And this other woman seems so easy to figure out, so simple to live with.” He saw it not as a judgment of his wife as much as a simple statement of fact: it is difficult to make a life with another person. On the one side he had a woman who needed so much from him and on the other side he had a woman who looked like she would only give without taking. He knew it was a lie, he hated every thought that drew his heart toward her, and yet day after day it crept up and presented him with what promised to be an easier path.
We shifted the conversation away from his wife, away from the other woman, and toward Christ. Sometimes it is difficult to see how the gospel applies to life; sometimes it is not difficult at all.
The Bible tells us that a man is to love his wife in such a way that he imitates the love Christ has for his church, for his people. And if there is anything at all we know about Christ’s love for his people it is this: it is a love that will never end. Though we may stray for a time, he will draw us back. Though we may give up on Christ, he will never give up on us. His love will endure. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
Christ’s love for the church provides the model of a husband’s love for his wife. This is the deepest kind of challenge for the Christian husband. Christ will never grow so worn out that he will shift his attention toward someone else instead. His heart will never stray. His affections will never waver. He will never grow so weary of us that he moves on.
I could hardly blame him if he did. There must be people out there who would prove a lot easier to deal with than me. There must be people out there whose hearts are less sinful than mine, who would progress in holiness faster than I would, who would worship more wholeheartedly and who would live with greater gratitude. And yet he has chosen me, he has set his love on me, and nothing will cause him to abandon me. He will never give up.
This husband is called to love with that same endurance. He is called to love with the same hope, the same dedication. The security he has in Christ is the security his wife must have in him.
This is the gospel. This is the display of the gospel in marriage.