Thursday, March 16, 2006

What if Christ Loved the Church Like You Love Your Wife?

A lot of Christians spiritualize marriage. Since St. Paul compares it to and claims it represents Christ and the Church, these Christians let their confidence in that heavenly relationship bring on an ambivalence about their own earthly one. "It's what's in heaven that matters." Others have a far more horizontal effort toward marriage. They consider adultery a calamity because it hurts spouse, kids, and others. These Christians are not ambivalent but counteract these forces by restoring romance, holding marriage conferences, and writing how-to books that we can't politely discuss on this page.

Both approaches are recognizing true things. It is all about Christ and the Church, and we do need practical help. And if we spoke of the practical goods and evils in terms of the spiritual reality, might we not sound like St. Paul? Violations of marital goodwill should not be merely assessed as a failure of spousal obligation, but a blow against the very name of Christ our Lord.

"Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, "The two shall become one flesh." But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him."
I Corinthians 6:15-17

Consider that visiting a prostitute is not primarily a crime against your marriage (while it is that), but the phrase "Do you not know...?" suggests that your awareness of your unity with Christ ought be the compelling force to say, "Never". Also in this short passage the physical union "one flesh" with the prostitute mitigates against your spiritual union with Christ. Where then does your physical union with your wife fit in?

"Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." I Corinthians 6:18-20

Your body (in this case your sexual body) is a place of glorification of the Lord. Your relationship with your spouse is the metaphor for the glories of the Gospel and Our Lord's care and consideration. It's not that a strong emotional, spiritual, and sexual bond in your marriage does not benefit your struggle against temptation (see I Corinthians 7:1-7). But you are not just avoiding a negative assault by your deeper relationship, you are declaring a positive good. Christ your Savior is being declared by your love for your wife or husband. If you measure your actions toward your spouse by what mercies Christ has given or what obediences he ought expect of the Church, the power to set aside sin is manifestly absolute. If you are only practical and horizontal, realize that there are Gentiles that can enjoy a rewarding marriage by God's common graces. And a satisfying sexuality can be as much of a temptation to illicit behavior as the absence of it. If your marital nature is not defined by Christ's supernature, it will define itself by quantities of human gratification alone. And you must then keep adding benefits to your marriage, more adventure, romance, communication, etc. All of these are, in truth, good and valid enjoyments, and large armies usually win the wars. The Scriptures tell that "the battle does not always go to the strong" and it warns you not to trust in the "arm of flesh" or the "chariots of Egypt". These have certain powers, but sin can call you across a line that the greatest wife in the world is insufficient to bar. Remember that Eve lived in a perfect world.

Christ and the Church is the reality of which your marriage writes. Your practical efforts are not to build up your troop strength against the temptations of the flesh, but to write on your husband's or your wife's flesh a metaphor that all will say is apt. "I am the Lord," says the husband, "and my wife the elect." "I am the ransomed," says the wife, "and my husband is my Lord who purchased me." "As Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord." says I Peter. Notice St. Paul on this:

"Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church; however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband." Ephesians 5:22-33

11 comments:

83843 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Oracle said...

Dear 83843,
Perhaps knowledge of my wife's name combined with the joys of anonymity seemed a blessing too great to pass. As an oracle to those who lack internal guidance I offer you the scroll bar to the right of your browser. Use it to reach Rule Seven as it addresses Graceful Speech. Read it closely. Then on to the Archives where Rule Two resides. It has to do with admitting demerits frankly. You have at least one that we have all "enjoyed". You may feel free to contact God privately to restore your soul and me as well, if only to restore your social condition.
blessings,
Evan

83843 said...

Evan,

LOL..'m somewhat struggling with a bizzare notion of a fat redneck from the middle of nowhere who has barely ever touched European soil, trying to pass himself as a gentleman of style. How about a reality check??

The Oracle said...

Dear 83843,
Thank you for keeping it clean. You are mostly right. I am fat. But I am not a redneck. I do live in the middle of nowhere. I have only barely been to Europe. In my desire to be a gentleman, and my dealings with it as a social philosophy, I may have mischaracterized my own achievements in its regard. I apologize for that. Still, the rules given are part of the system of social ethics of centuries and are gleaned, not from the Oracle's own visions, but those of Lord Chesterfield. He is someone that no one doubts was the absolute gentleman. Do you not like the rules or just my involvement with them?

83843 said...

Evan,

're an insecure xenophobe with a proven record, an individual with a closed mind automatically rejecting that which is beyond him.
That is your right, conditional on you staying within your pale. If you venture outside and enter our world, you must be prepared to be tackled with extreme prejudice and get thrown out.
'm afraid that there can be no room for pity, as the issue is no different from pest control. So, please, get a reality check and quit posting the stuff like you know what you're talking about.

Kind regards,

Mark said...

Hummmm, so Zip Code, while behaving nothing akin to a gentleman, assumes to instruct Evan on his lack of qualifications to lecture on the subject. Well, maybe Evan's shortcomings in the area are manifest, maybe they aren't, but Zip Code, through his completely incourteous posts, has disqualified himself from having anything worthwhile to say on the subject.

The Oracle said...

Dear 83843,
Maybe I should be thankful that so few read my blog and fewer read the comments. Any actual content objections (setting aside for the moment my hubris) that you would wish my small audience to know?
Have I gotten anything right or should the world plot 180 degrees from my position and call it "Truth"?

83843 said...

Evan,

I see no point in discussing the matter any further. The reasoning has been presented to you and you have been warned: it's as simple as that, so save your verbal diarrhea for somebody who's got the patience and pray that our worlds never collide.

The Oracle said...

Okee Dokee.

Bennett Carnahan said...

(sheesh. someone needs to get out more...)


Mr. Wilson, thank you for a simultaneously sobering and encouraging post, and for setting a Godly and goodnatured example in your home.

- ben

83843 said...

Well,

I guess I have nothing else to add, other than to say that you've ignored the warning and shall face disciplinary sanctions as a result.

See you soon:)