Let’s shift from an analogy about different cars and think about marriage – what is the motor for progress in a marriage?
Marriage Approach A – This approach is to focus on the responsibilities for those who have married. Now you are married you need to look at this list of top tips for successful marriages. You need to be sure to put out the household waste, and mow the lawn, and do your share of the clean-up after meals, and help with tidying the house, and the list goes on. Any critique of this approach draws immediate fire because it is self-evident that the great list of married behaviours are true of great marriages and these chores don’t happen on their own and everyone knows you have to decide to wash the dishes or they won’t get washed. It is obvious.
Marriage Approach B – This has a different motor. Instead of responsibility, the driver is recollection. You are no longer a slovenly single living in a perpetual mess, you now have a new status. You are married! Now you just need to learn to live married. The key? It is not to look at lists of behaviours expected of married people. Those behaviours will come naturally as long as you remember that you are married. So don’t look at the lists, look back to your wedding day. Remember how stunning your spouse looked and how amazed you were that they married you. That stirring of gratitude within will bring about change in behaviours.
Isn’t there a third option here? Something more than looking at the list of household duties and/or looking back to the wedding day? To listen to some debate the issue of the Christian life you might think not. One side will emphasize the expectations of married people and declare the self-evident truth that if you don’t pressure married people to follow the list, then they will obviously slip back into slovenly single behaviours from their past. The other side will claim that the solution to old habits is not new pressure, but better awareness of the privilege of their marriage, combined with gratitude for what happened on their wedding day. Someone gripped by the wonder of who married them will naturally do the things on the list of expectations for married people.
Look at the list, or look at the wedding photos? Isn’t there a really obvious alternative that is missing here?
How about looking at your spouse? I’ve been married for fifteen years. I don’t have a list of instructions for being a good husband, but I do seem to have an engine driving me in my marriage – it isn’t simply an ongoing slog of self-discipline. I still remember the wonder of seeing my bride walk down the aisle toward me. But I don’t live with a permanent image of my wife in a white veil before my eyes. Instead I have a living and dynamic relationship with her. The cumulative effect of years of memories, shared experiences, dynamic interaction and our hearts being united by the Spirit of God at work in our marriage has, and continues, to transform us.
One thought on “Gospel Preaching – 4”
Thanks Peter, for your insightful analogy. It seems to me that this debate between side A and side B is really driven by a misunderstanding of Grace. For side A their understanding of Grace is that is some thing that is given like power source from God, somewhat like a back pack with a rocket booster to propel forward. Side A often characterizes side B as soft on sin as if Grace was merely a full body cover up for just being sinful. But I can say as one who is on side B. I am convinced that Grace is transforming and that it is more than merely a power source or a judicial declaration over us. As you may have noticed, I have used Grace with a capital G and this was not a slip of the shift key. It was on purpose. Grace is a person, not a thing. It is not something outside of God. For some their understanding sounds like they picture it as the fourth member of the Trinity…it is not. Jesus Christ is Grace. We who are believers have received the Spirit of Grace. Titus 2:5 says, the Grace of God appeared bringing salvation… and teaching us to deny ungodliness and live righteously in this present age. So Grace is Jesus, Who has appeared and it is as we see Him as He is that we will be transformed into His image (see Psalm 135:28, 115:8). What transforms? You said it well. By looking to Jesus, our beautiful bride groom, we are being transformed by Grace.