My wife and I have been married for over 14 years. In terms of our lives in the church, we have both changed over those 14 years. Our upbringings in the church were vastly different and the years before we met were influenced by different circumstances. One thing is for certain, we both needed each other and the church. I have never been one to believe in “soul mates” but God has certainly drawn us together and bonded us in our marriage. Now, after 14 years of marriage you can see how we have both changed. Change isn’t a scary thing when you have a deep love for one another and at its center is God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. How are we to view our marriages? When your spouse fails or sins against you, what is your response? Is it one of condemnation or forgiveness? One of the things that really helps me handle the ups and downs of being married to a sinner is the right understanding of the Law and the Gospel. Understanding that each person in a marriage is affected differently by God’s Law and God’s Gospel. One thing is certain, in the end they are both meant to strengthen a marriage and bring both people back to Jesus Christ alone.
The Law in marriage.
It’s far easier for us to point to the Law when our spouse sins against us. We are too easily tempted only to point out our spouse’s sin rather than also to proclaim they are forgiven. Our corrupt nature wants to be right and wants to seem righteous in the eyes of others. We must certainly confront our husbands and wives when they are sinful. We must not sweep their sins under the rug because it may hurt their feelings or cause strain in our marriage. Also being careful to not let our own sinfulness, the devil and the world influence a loving correction of them by turning it into an mean spirited, “I’m right and you’re wrong” tirade. God’s Law will do the work of showing both spouses their sin. We must be aware of how the Law can have a much different affect on an individual’s conscience. In this way, husbands and wives must stand with each other as they battle their individual sins. While we all break all of the Commandments, the Law does condemn people differently. A husband may struggle with lust or coveting. A wife may struggle with gossip and idolatry. Just as God has made us all different physically, sin also affects us differently. In turn, the Law also exposes different sins at different times.
The Gospel in marriage.
You would think forgiving your husband or wife would be pretty easy. This person you love more then anyone else in the world, yet also sin against more then anyone else. In some circumstances it is easy to forgive and in other circumstances it isn’t. You would think because we know the great forgiveness of sins we have in Jesus Christ that we would be getting better at forgiving. The battle against our sinful flesh is a life of great failures and small successes. So while our marriages will be constantly under attack from the devil, the world and our sinfulness we must remember that Jesus Christ has already been victorious over all these things. The Gospel in our marriages begins and ends where God has said they will be, in the Word and Sacraments and in His Son. The Gospel message must be heard and received by husbands and wives every Sunday and throughout life. What a great gift it is to stand next to our spouse and confess our sins against each other and receive forgiveness, to hear the preaching of Law and Gospel and receive the great gift of our Savior’s body and blood in Holy Communion: Grace upon grace upon grace for what our sinful, yet forgiven marriages need.
Jesus Christ in marriage.
The same way the Bible has a Law and Gospel dynamic, so too does marriage. There are times when you must confront sinfulness in your marriage with the Law, always remembering that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been victorious over sin and death for us all. There will be ups and downs in marriage, this is our lot in life because of our inherent sinfulness. It is only through God’s help that our marriages can withstand the effects of this sinful life. His Word, His Sacraments and His forgiveness will not waiver even when our faith does. Just as God has bond up marriage to His church (Ephesians 5:25) we must also bind our marriages in what the Church has to offer: the forgiveness of sins in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Through constant exposure to the Law and Gospel of God, marriages can find their rightful place in Jesus Christ.