Brazilians are very much like Filipinos — warm, relational, and sincere. It’s been such a joy to interact with them and get to know their culture better. I have to gesticulate to communicate because most Brazilians don’t speak a smidgen of English. I’ve learned a few Portuguese words — obrigada (thank you), todo (total), Deus (God), minha (my), agua (water), bom (good), boa noite (good evening), oferta (special discount), saida (exit), entrada (enter)…
Over the past week of sitting through the family conference sessions at First Baptist Church of Curutiba, I picked up a couple of insights that have been especially meaningful to me. Two days ago, Pastor Paschoal Pirigine talked about the idea of love as found in Ephesians 5:25.
The text reads, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
What is this love that Christ demonstrated? How can we love our spouses and children in the same way?
He shared two insights: Love must give itself completely, without limits. Love must reinvent and resurrect itself.
Interestingly, it was observed that people in concentration camps during World War II were of two kinds. The ones who were perceived to be strong, who were most likely to survive, did not. It was those who where weak but cared for others that tended to survive. Why? Because they had something to live for. They loved beyond their own capacities.
We tend to lose perspective about the fact that the God of the universe came to earth in human flesh. The endless had to “fit” into the finite. John 1:14 tells us that “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
When Jesus sacrificed himself, he died for the sins of the world. He could’ve stopped it all and come off the cross to end his suffering. Yet he gave his life with complete abandon. We may think it was easy to do because he was also divine. However, we know that he struggled with the realities of his limitations when he said, “Father if possible, remove this cup from me. But not my will but yours be done.”
We too are confronted by our limitations so often, especially in the context of a marriage and family. How does a person keep loving a spouse who is unfaithful? How does a mother keep loving a child who is impaired by a disability? How does a child keep loving a parent who is consistently angry and unreasonable?
Some of these limitations seem insurmountable. Yet true love sees beyond the impossible. Against all odds it seeks to exceed its limits for the sake of the person it chooses to love. Christ didn’t come off the cross because he loves us. He came to finish his mission — to die in our place so we might receive forgiveness of sins and be reconciled to God.
Do we easily give up on our family members?
Pastor Paschoal told the story of a son who was addicted to drugs. This person was jailed thirty times! When he asked the parents if they felt like giving up, they replied, “We will never give up on our son.”
I don’t know what I would do if my son was this way! The reality is we are used to replacing and forsaking what pushes us to our limits. It’s the easier way out. But the solution to overcoming these limits is to focus on what Christ did on the cross for us.
We must seek to do as Christ did. Love must “raise and reinvent” itself. After Jesus died, he raised himself and “reinvented” his body. He was raised with a new body. We know this because his friends didn’t recognise him right away. Similarly, we must resurrect our love and reinvent it in new forms, expressing it in new ways.
Pastor Paschoal went on to share that at 15, his love for his wife (his girlfriend at the time) was to show up at the seashore to meet her. When there was a flood in their city, his love compelled him to walk through the waters to go to her. At 21, love was to sit down with his young wife and say, “no matter how much we have, we will find a way to go through life together.” Today, loving his wife is to care for her as she struggles through the pain and challenges of an autoimmune disease that is affecting her nervous system. The disease is causing her brain to shrink.
According to Pastor Paschoal love must be reinvented for every phase of life. As each year passes, it should change according to the need of the other. It must be expressed in new ways to communicate itself. It must be resurrected newly, daily, through the seasons and phases of life, through the history of a marriage and a family.
And, very often love must be resurrected through forgiveness.
I know of a couple who survived the crisis of multiple infidelities on the part of the husband. Because the wife understood Christ-like love, she chose to forgive her husband unconditionally. This resurrected their love. Today, they have a beautiful marriage and they are impacting multitudes for the Lord. Although it didn’t happen overnight, the choice to forgive gave their marriage a fighting chance.
Only love that is amplified by the grace of God allows us to experience what is humanly impossible. Until we recognise what Christ did for us, “how he loved the church and gave himself up for her,” as Ephesians 5:25 tells us, we will not be able to love beyond our limitations or resurrect and reinvent love to meet the needs of our beloved. We need to abide in this love to give of this love.
When we embrace Christ’s love and mirror it in our marriage something amazing happens. A man and a woman who are so different, who come from dissimilar contexts become one person. This is the miracle of love. God creates one person, one life, one family, one dream, one culture.
I want to end with something John Piper said in his book, “This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence.” Marriage is the doing of God and it is the display of God. A marriage between a man and a woman was designed form the beginning to be a reflection of the covenant relationship between Jesus Christ and us. In Ephesians, Paul says, “A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” And then the passage goes on to say, “ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:31-32)
When I read this, it really ministered to me. It renewed my resolve and commitment to love Edric for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer. Why? Because marriage was designed to showcase the relationship between Jesus Christ and his church. Christ will never leave his church, his bride. Christ will never betray or forsake his church, his bride.
Do our marriages display the same truth for our children? For the world? It is this truth that makes a marriage sacred. To love without limitations, to resurrect and reinvent love in our marriages is to declare the gospel — that God is a good and loving God. When this happens society will pay attention and notice. This love will spread from our marriages, to our children, and to the world.
If you want to read a book on marriage that will radically change your perception and understanding of it, click this link:
This Momentary Marriage