Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:14
Love and marriage, love and marriage…that’s the theme song to one of my husband’s sitcom guilty pleasures, and it doesn’t have much to do with this post, except that today’s verse from Colossians 3:14 is a reminder from Paul to “clothe yourselves with love.” It’s also our anniversary. The 16th. And in many of those 16 years, he has been known to wear many a shirt in reference to many movies and sitcoms. Al Bundy references are just one.
16 years of wedded bliss. I sincerely hope no one believes that statement. I sincerely hope anyone embarking on marriage, or any long-term relationship doesn’t assume that any marriage is filled with only bliss.
It may seem that marriage and this verse above would be appropriate at first glance. Perhaps as a stand alone verse. Yes, certainly…because love is the language of those who follow Christ. But this isn’t all Paul is instructing us to do. This verse can’t stand alone.
And while Paul is writing to the church in Colosse, a church that had become saturated with many false beliefs and thoughts about Christ, warning them to remember who was their true connection to the Father and to His love, these principles don’t just apply to the people we encounter in the church pews. They are paramount to any relationship. Especially the intimacy within a marriage. The love from Christ we receive is to be displayed to others, and definitely towards our spouse.
Is it easy? No.
And it encompasses so much more than lovey-dovey words and phrases, or romantic overtures.
In the verses proceeding number 14, Paul mentions the following:
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. (v. 12-13).
Now…how does this apply to our spouses? To the day to day grind of living with another being day in and day out? Especially those who have a propensity to quote Al Bundy?
First, tenderheart mercy. We display tenderhearted mercy when we choose to not lament and bring up the fact that our spouse did not load the dishwasher again. Or that they threw the socks on the floor, right next to the hamper. We don’t scream, kick, and shove when they snore too loud. We offer them mercy, even though we want to offer them a peace of our mind. We do the dishes, we lean over to pick up the socks, and we reach for the ear plugs, as we gently tap them to roll over. And then we gently remind them we love them.
Next, kindness. Let’s talk about this making fun of each other stuff. You know, if you like to joke…cool. However, have you ever watched the look on your spouse’s face, or listened to the hurt in their voice when you know or felt when it went too far? Saying cruel things about someone’s appearance, intellect, mental health, character, or ability; and then following it up with, “I was only joking,” is still cruel and unkind. The Bible is clear about the ways in which we are to speak to others, in such a way that the words we use should “encourage and build up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Over time these “jokes” hurt more than provide humor. Speak words of kindness, and encouragment. If you wouldn’t want the words spoken to you, or to the children you may have together-don’t say them to your spouse. Speak words you would want to hear.
What about humility? This one be can hard to understand for some, so I am going to simplify it. You are not better than your spouse, and your spouse is not better than you. One supports the other. One helps the other. Selfishness has no place in marriage. Are we, as humans, are prone to it? Of course, we crave our independence. We don’t want to be dependent on another person, or feel we are constantly having too much asked of us, but we were created-man and woman to help each other, encourage each other, and support each other. This requires at times we put our needs to the side to serve our spouse-in sickness and in health…and all that jazz.
Gentleness. Now, let’s go back to tenderhearted mercy for this one. Think back to those dishes, socks, and that snoring. We did the dishes. We picked up the socks. And well, at this point…there is really nothing we can do about the snoring, but get better ear plugs. We really can’t let the chores go. At some point, accountability is OK to address. However, with kind words, and with gentleness. Our natural bend is to stuff all the months of dishwashing and sock grabbing up, and then blow-up with harsh, and mean words. We say a lot of things we do not mean (or maybe we do mean them), and then we have to double down with an apology later. We can address the lack of help with chores, with a gentle conversation about our need for help. Speaking the truth with love is a biblical response that can go a long way in saving two people a ton of hurt in many conversations over a number of years. Trust the one who has slammed many a cabinet and dish in the sink just to get my point across in the past. The slamming rarely does it. The gentleness usually will.
Last, yet certainly not least-forgiveness. Yes, I know. It is hard. It is a long road that is bumpy and filled with potholes. Forgiveness in the institution of mariage is something no one wants to talk about because it sounds a lot like failure. The question someone wants to ask when you talk about forgiveness is: What did you do to need that? Perhaps the question should be: What didn’t we do? There will be SO many things that will occur within this intimate of a relationship that will require little and large acts of forgiveness. Some of the forgiveness journeys will be easy, and some will be much harder. Some will require small acts of patience; and others will requre large acts of compassion and large doses of mercy. Yet, we must remember there are times we have needed the same. Even slights we forgave and forgot. Things we thought we would never forget.
However, because of the capacity that God has given us to love, we were given the ability to endure through those pains we thought we could not get through. Annoying movie-quotes. Long nights in hospitals. Stupid arguments over goodness knows what.
Bound together in perfect harmony through Christ.
For 16 years and beyond.