“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col 3:12-17)
This is a wonderful text to be applied in all relationships between brethren but especially in a godly marriage. The Word of God tells us that marriage is a picture of the Love Christ has for His Bride, the Church. To obey the Word of God, both husband and wife must be saved and Spirit filled. Both must desire to glorify Christ in their lives and in their marriage. Marital love is not just a feeling but it is a life time commitment in the presence of God! Marriage is hard work. Marriage is not easy. But marriage has a glory harvest on earth!
The devil hates the Christians especially when they marry. There is great power released to the glory of God when husband and wife pray in the unity of the Spirit. The devil will try its best to divide them, physically or spiritually. Our weapons are not carnal, but spiritual. Both husband and wife live happily knowing that they are ‘elect of God, holy and beloved’. Each one’s identity is rooted in the everlasting love of God. Each one is spiritually, emotionally and mentally stable and can help the other in case of weakness or sin. Each one must be merciful, humble, patient, tolerating and forgiving the other. Love covers all sins and binds all good virtues in one unit of grace. The peace of God reigns in that home. There is thanksgiving flowing in their marriage. They are filled with the Word of God and they apply it daily. They teach and admonish one another from the Word of God. Their marriage is singing praises to God. The Holy Spirit is happy to dwell in their home. That is an ideal Christian home!
Today, my husband, Pastor Richmond Leigh, and I celebrate 44 years of marriage. We got married as unbelievers. About fifteen years later we became saved. Or marriage is blessed with three children and six grandchildren (and still growing). We are now in full time ministry. We have many spiritual sons and daughters. To the glory of God!
I was thinking what to share from our long, challenging but very happy successful marriage… The truth is that I have forgotten our sinful past of long ago. More and more I see Christ in my husband and I hope he sees the same in me. One of the most important decisions we have made is to be pro-active in our love, especially concerning the area of forgiveness. The Bible commands us to do two things: to forbear and forgive. The first word means to bear long, to endure patiently and quietly, praying in the Spirit for the grace to move on from offence to peace and joy. “When persecuted, we endure” (1Cor 4:12). The second word ‘forgive’ means to freely release your prisoner, to not expect payment from the one who offended you. You either forgive or you ask for revenge. Both cannot do both in same time! To forgive it means to bless instead of cursing, to pay back good instead of evil. Forbearing and forgiving are vitally necessary in marriage. Both are very difficult actions. It is easier to quarrel, insult or keep grudges. It is easier to divorce than forgive!!! Only the Holy Spirit is able to perform this holy work in you!
There is no doubt that in this world of sin ‘offences will come’. My husband and I come from different countries, races and backgrounds. At the beginning, our marriage was difficult. We had difficulty in understanding one another, especially the motives of our actions. For example, what I considered right, he thought it was wrong. I just did not understand him…. We never planned to quarrel but we could not always avoid disagreements. To make matters worse, the devil was always ready to ‘add pepper to the soup’. As Christians we knew that we need to love and forgive. But love is not easy, for love is a sacrifice. Love is sustained and protected by spiritual warfare. You must be jealous over your marriage testimony! “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Cor 13:7–8).
Over the years we observed that if there is an argument and pain follows, it takes us a long time to gather strength and manifest love again. We eventually forgive one another but it takes time. The hurt lasted too long. The damage to our emotions was too great. By the time we forgave each other, the wound will leave a deep scar. To avoid this we both decided to become pro-active in love. We studied each other in the light of the Word. We prayed for revival in our marriage; for wisdom, love, patience and holy passion. We decided to build up a ‘savings account’ of love, grace and forgiveness. We decided to love and forgive before the offence comes. In that way, if there is any misunderstanding, it lands on the soft bed of forgiving love and it is quickly deactivated. By doing this, we killed the fear of division and quarrels. ‘Where sin abounds, grace abounds much more’ (Rom 5:20).
This is our mature testimony as a married couple: To the glory of God we now forgive ‘as Christ forgives’. Jesus died for us ‘while we were yet sinners’. (Rom 5:8). He did not wait for our quarrels with Him before He thought of a way to forgive us. He forgave us on the Cross because we ‘did not know what we were doing’ (Lk 23:34). At last, after many years of trial and error, by the grace of God, my husband and I have discovered that Love is not a reaction, but a sacrificial, purposeful, holy action rooted in Christ and His love for His Bride. We do not just forgive! We live in the realm of forgiveness. We forgive each other before (and not only after) the disagreement comes. We cannot predict when trouble comes, but we can prepare against it by surrounding our hearts in the oil of forgiveness and grace.
Let me be even more personal. I say: ‘By the grace of God, and for the sake of Christ my Lord, no matter what my husband says of does to me, I will forgive him always and for everything, for as long as I live!”. If these words sound foolish to you, it means that you have not yet arrived at ‘the hill of incense’ where all is soaked in glory! You have not been intoxicated with the fragrance of Christ! You have not yet touched the scars on His hands! You have not kissed His dusty feet! Your alabaster box is still intact! You have not heard His Words spoken to me! I testify that there is no fear in love! Oh, my Lord!!!!!
“Then turning toward the woman Jesus said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” (Lk 7:44-50)
May these words find you ready to go to a higher level of faith! May your marriage be blessed! To the glory of God!
(In the picture, my husband and I, on vacation, at our Hotel in Cappadokia, Turkey. The hotel was built in the rock)