Keith and Nellie

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In Psalm 45, the psalmist declares that he will write down a good thing. Scripture tells us that he who finds a wife finds a good thing, and in this passage of Scripture we find that marriage itself, marriage generally, is considered a good thing.

But too often conservative Christians have assumed that a good thing, in order to remain a good thing, must somehow be a dour thing. Good equals grim. But this is not how Scripture sees it. Good is opposed to evil, certainly. Without a sense of the antithesis, without a sharp division between that which is good and that which is evil, we are rejecting what the Bible plainly tells us. But here, in verse seven, speaking of the bridegroom, it says that he loves righteousness and he hates wickedness. But note what follows this. “Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows” (v. 7).

The love of righteousness is not dour, sour, or grim. The love of righteousness, and its close companions, the hatred of evil, are the only true soil in which gladness can grow. This is not limited to the groom’s party—the same thing is said here of the bridesmaids in verse 15. “With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought: they shall enter into the king’s palace.”

Weddings are exuberant, and they ought to be this way. Weddings are a time of joy and gladness. Weddings are festive and full of joy. But weddings also occur in the context of conflict. We live in a fallen world, and the reason we do is because Adam did not fulfill his duty to fight and kill the dragon. In this fallen world, all joy is protected joy. In verse 3, the bridegroom has a sword upon his thigh. Because of sin, there can be no joy without battlements, walls, citadels, defenses.

In the fifth chapter of Ephesians husbands are told to love their wives as Christ loved the Church, giving Himself up for her. Notice this: love is protection. Love is sacrifice. Love is not identified with mere sentiment. Love bleeds. This is consistent with what we see in our psalm. Jesus endured the cross, the Bible says, despising the shame, and He did it for the joy that was set before Him. No blood, no joy.

Our sentimental age wants gladness and joy to be nothing more than a group hug and universal acceptance of anything and everything. But this is not true acceptance and forgiveness—it is a universal corrosive. Without the ability to reject, we lose the ability to accept. Because Adam would not reject the serpent, he lost Eve by default. Friendship with wolves is hatred of sheep. Because our first parents refused to maintain the proper distinction between one tree and the others in Eden, they lost all the trees of Eden.

Now Keith, given all this, here is my charge for you. A husband who refuses to sacrifice himself in protection, as Adam refused, becomes the principal person his wife needs protection from. The Lord Jesus Christ did what Adam did not do. Jesus laid down His life, and consequently, He was His bride’s deliverer. A husband who does not do this is an abdicator—but worse than this, his abdication is not something that has no effect. His abdication is destructive. It amounts to an assault on his wife. This is why you have to love righteousness and hate wickedness.

But here is the next issue. Scripture teaches us that the judgment we use is the judgment that will be applied to us. This means that if you “love righteousness and hate wickedness” as sin is manifested in others, this will mean only that you have allowed yourself to become a hyper-critical husband. Keith, the world does not need any more hyper-critical husbands. Keith, the world does not need one more hyper-critical husband.

This means that your hatred of sin has to begin with your own heart, concerning your own faults and failings. More often than not, the dragon will make his entry into the garden of your marriage through the gateway of your heart. Guard that gateway, sword in hand. Stand there, from this day forward, prepared to die. You will have to do it often. But we serve a God who raises the dead, and each time you will find that you are better equipped for the next defense. Love as Christ loved. Give as Christ gave. Wash her as Christ washed His bride. Pour yourself out as Christ poured Himself out. Always remember: love bleeds. Love dies. And in this way only, love overcomes death.

Nellie, there are many ways in which the charge to Keith applies to you as well. But although the love and respect that husbands and wives are to show to one another are fully reciprocal, they are not symmetrical. By this I mean that when Keith gives to you, you must give back to him—but what you give back to him is always glorified and transformed. You don’t receive from him and simply hand it back unchanged. What he is to give is all of himself, and particular gifts as emblems of himself. You are charged to accept his sacrifice in the first place. Don’t shy away. Don’t be reluctant. God has commanded all husbands to die for their wives, and it is the part of wisdom for the wife to receive it, and to receive it gladly. This is because you are trusting God and His Word in just the same way that Keith is trusting God and His Word.

St. Paul says in Ephesians that the man who loves his wife loves himself. But note that it says this in the same context where it defines love as self-sacrifice to the point of death. So the man who dies for his wife loves himself. How is this possible?

When Adam “died” the first time, it was not the death of condemnation—it was not death as the enemy it became. Adam was put into a deep sleep, a coma, and when he awoke, his bride was there, the best gift he had ever received. In the ways of God, death is made fruitful. Even when the curse of sin entered the world and gave death its sting—the thing that makes death an enemy now—God still worked in such a way as to cause this death to bear fruit. The most conspicuous example of this is our Lord’s resurrection, but we see the principle at work everywhere.

When a man gives to a woman, truly gives, what she gives back to him is resurrection. He tends the ground, harvests the wheat and gives it to her. She receives it, glorifies it, and returns it to him as bread. This is reciprocity, but it is not symmetrical. When a man loves a woman, she receives him, and she gives his love back to him as a son or a daughter. This is reciprocity, but it is not symmetrical. This is all gospel, and it is all glory.

Nellie, this means that you are called to be Keith’s thirty, sixty, and one hundred fold. You are his glory. You are the one who will receive his sacrifice of himself, take it, and glorify it, and return it to him again in a form he could not have imagined. This is a great mystery, Paul says, but the ultimate form of this is found in Christ and the Church. But somehow, someway, each Christian husband and each Christian wife is privileged to partake in this.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.

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