This is the fourth of a four-part series of posts on marriage and sex. Today, I am going to consider the place of sacrifice in marriage.
Watching the music videos on MTV, you’d get the idea that sex is all about taking. But as soon as you get involved with another real, flesh and blood human being, you discover that for any relationship to succeed it requires at least as much giving as taking.
In fact, what the Bible calls us to is the giving of complete sacrifice.
I have already argued that sex should be fruitful and faithful, and this means it is something that should be kept exclusively for marriage. That sex should also be sacrificial raises the stakes on this even higher.
According to the Bible, marriage should be a place where we experience God’s mercy and grace, and it is also the setting in which we are to display mercy and grace to another. The model scripture gives to us for this kind of marriage is the relationship between Christ and the church:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.
This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Eph 5:25-33)
In Christ’s relationship with the church there is a complete and total giving.
Jesus gave himself for the church—he went to the cross for her; he sacrificed himself for her; he died for her.
What is extraordinary about this passage in Ephesians is the way it says that the way Christ acted is the way husbands should act towards their wives. It is made very clear. Husbands are to love their wives just as Christ loved the church.
Just like Jesus sacrificed himself for his church, husbands are to sacrifice themselves for their wives.
This is the model for human marriage—it is about sacrifice. This is very different from how people often approach relationships.
Our culture conditions us to think about ourselves and our own happiness and rights. Jesus teaches us to sacrifice.