“What is love?” Most people think love is a hormone or a feeling. Often when people think of love they picture lovers kissing while the world stands still; they picture something out of a romantic movie or a song. And yet, we intuitively know that love takes commitment.
When a person decides to marry someone—to love someone for life—he or she makes a vow because they realize, even with the best of intentions, a groom can’t vow to always smell roses whenever his bride enters the room. A bride can’t promise that the world will stand still whenever her groom kisses her in the morning mist. Isn’t it for this very reason that we take vows . . . because our passion is unreliable? So, maybe true love is more than passion or a feeling.
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for love is hesed. It means: “covenant love.” When people formed a covenant in ancient times, they would slaughter an animal and lay the pieces on the ground, then they would walk between the pieces reciting the terms of the covenant and saying, “May it be done unto me as it was done unto this animal if I break the terms of this covenant.”
In Scripture, God revealed His love for us in a covenant. We should never forget that the picture that God gives us of His love is not some enchanted evening under the stars. The picture of love that God gives is God in flesh, hanging naked, drenched in His own blood, impaled on a tree because of His covenant love for each one of us—His Harlot Bride.
His blood is shed to atone for all the ways that we have broken covenant with Him.
His body is broken to form a new and eternal covenant for each of us.
That’s how much He loves us!
I hope you see: true love can hurt. When you vow yourself to fallen people, you can get crucified. And yet, we’re often surprised when our own marriage covenants don’t work out like a romantic movie or song, and we ask: What wrong? If this is God’s plan, why isn’t it working out like I thought it would? Isn’t marriage God’s plan?
Yes! Marriage is God’s plan—just like Jesus Christ and Him crucified is God’s plan.
God’s plan for all of us is to kill our prideful, self-centered, lonely false selves, what Paul calls our “old man,” and then reveal to us who we truly are—His very own image: “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). And who is that perfect image of God? He is the “crazy” Bridegroom, hanging on a cross because He vowed Himself unconditionally to us: His unfaithful Harlot Bride. And God planned this from the very beginning, right in Genesis chapter one He said, “Let us make Adam in our own image.”
God chose to make Adam—adam, humanity—in His image, by making us male and female and then making male and female one flesh: “’Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and…it refers to Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:31-32).
And so, He works through all that surrounds us: He works through starry nights and misty mornings, “Chantilly lace and a pretty face,” estrogen, testosterone, and burning desires to draw us into an unconditional covenant with one other sinner and no escape clause but death so that we’d learn to love even when it hurts, so that we’d learn to forgive even as we’ve been forgiven, so that we’d be like Jesus.
So men, if your bride publicly humiliates you, strips you naked, whips you and nails you to a tree, it doesn’t mean that your marriage isn’t working, it means it’s especially working because now you look just like Someone else—“the image of the invisible God.” Marriage is how God kills the old man and resurrects the New man—Himself in us and others.
People often divorce because of incompatibility, but who’s compatible with a cross? People get divorced because they say, “It isn’t working.” But maybe that’s precisely when it is working!
Now, maybe you feel shame because you realize you don’t have the strength to fulfill a vow of love, and I certainly hope you see: YOU DON’T; none of us do (Rom. 3:23). If you’re married you probably broke your marriage vow the moment you took it. A vow to love constitutes a law about love. The law describes love, but it isn’t love. And if we think we can make ourselves love, we’ve fallen for the lie of the snake in the garden.
We can’t make ourselves love.
We can’t make love, but Love is making us . . .
And He works through all of creation to reveal that to us!
We can only love by trusting that we are loved. When we receive that love, we’re impregnated with that Love and we become an incarnation of Love, called the Body and Bride of Christ. And so, it’s not a duty but a privilege that God would love one bride through one man for a lifetime or that He would love one groom through one woman for a lifetime.
Now, if you have been feeling left out thinking: “I have no bride or groom to love, no bride or groom to suffer for, no bride or groom to bear a cross for, just look around you . . . Scripture calls the Church the Bride of Christ. You are surrounded by the Bride of Christ.
Believe Christ’s love and you’ll become His Body of love, loving His Bride.
Christ will work through you to sanctify His Bride, by “the washing of water, with the word.” He’ll work through you to proclaim the Gospel—the truth that in our own strength we don’t love, but we will love, for our Maker is Love.
You see? When we proclaim the Word . . . we tell the Harlot that she’s actually the Bride. We tell her who she truly is . . . washed clean and covered in His righteousness.
Surrender to Love today.
And let Love make you in His image.
This devotional was prepared by Kimberly Weynen, Peter Hiett’s assistant. It is a compilation of devotional thoughts from Kimberly and excerpts from Peter’s sermon titled: “Marriage: God’s Sneaky Way to Get a Person Crucified.” To read, watch or listen to the sermon in its entirety click here: Marriage: God’s Sneaky Way to Get a Person Crucified
*Discussion questions are available here: 8.4.2013 Discussion Questions