Sacrifice definitely screams commitment. A great sacrifice often reveals a greater commitment. So the question I am asking married couples is “Would you cut off your hand to save your marriage?” Now, I need you to ponder this question before responding. I think that most spouses would say, “Yes, of course I would!” But would you be willing to do it?
So, what sacrifice are you willing to make for your marriage to be the best it can be?
This past week in our Rescuing Endangered Relationships series we looked at how “Two Better Halves Make a Whole.” (You can listen here) Just be prepared to be challenged if you click the link because this is not your normal marriage sermon!
This week in my devotional readings I came across another passage in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus reminds us of the importance of sacrifice. He states, “And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire.” (Matthew 18:8 ) This verse definitely gets our attention. I love the way that Jesus teaches and causes us to think. If we look a little deeper at the context we learn that Jesus is speaking about temptation and the need to remove the source of temptation in our lives. And yes it would be better to lose a hand, foot or eye if it was the difference between having a relationship with God or not. I would hope you agree.
So, you may be thinking, what does this have to do with marriage? Well, what keeps us from a relationship with God often keeps us from a relationship with others, like our spouse. I believe James said it best, ““What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” (James 4:1) Now, I do not know what you call the tensions that come up between you and your spouse, we call them fights. James calls them quarrels and fights. I should mention that the world “quarrel” used here is translated every other time in the New Testament as “war!” As I apply this passage to marriage, it means that you and your spouse go to war over differing expectations. Your spouse may expect you to take the garbage out right now but you plan to do your chore later when you get a chance. The delay in the doing the chore often results in war. And to make matters worse James reminds us that the driving force behind our differing expectations are our passions and desires. It could simply be the spouse’s desire for a clean house, but the Biblical text leads us to see these passions and desires as overflow of our sin nature (Galatians 5:6-21). And when we respond from our sinful nature we destroy relationships rather than build them up. It is the lack of spiritual growth that weakens our response to doing the right thing. We are also weakened by feeding our sin nature by the activities listed in Galatians 5:19-ff.
Let me share an illustration. Recently I was ministering to a couple that was struggling. We talked about the different areas of conflict. They shared how every time they went out partying they ended up in a fight. They were surprised when I shared with them that this one would be one of the easier issues to fix. “Yea,” I said, “Just stop partying.” The point is, were they willing to sacrifice something that is hindering their marriage. Would they “cut it off” to use Jesus’ words, for the sake of their marriage? And so I ask, “How about you?” What from that Galatians list above are you attached to that is weakening you from responding to your spouse in a spiritual way? Are you willing to “cut it off” for the sake of your marriage? And what Godly habit are you willing to substitute in its place?
-Pastor Joe Parkinson