Centuries ago, a hero of mine named St Francis said, “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.” For Francis, a great preacher wasn’t someone who knew everything about God. Rather, it was someone who truly lived the gospel in every part of their life. In this way, the gospel could be seen in the lives of believers and heard when they felt led to speak. His point was this: In everything you do, preach the gospel by living it out. In everything you do, be like Christ by living in the way of peace and serving others.
So what does this have to do with marriage? Quite a lot, I believe. My wife knows me much better than anyone else. She knows the things I am good at and she is aware of the ways I continually fail. I may be able to “fool” those around me in believing that I have things figured out, but my wife sees and experiences the intimate parts of my heart and soul that reveal the ways I am failing and the ways I am growing. As Jimmy mentioned in his recent sermon, the truth comes out when we lock the doors and the outside world doesn’t see what goes on inside the home. Our spiritual maturity, therefore, is best seen in the context of our most intimate relationships.
When both husband and wife are believers, the task of preaching the gospel in our marriage is not about evangelization. It is more about demonstration. The question must be asked, “How am I demonstrating the gospel to my spouse?” It is very possible to be communicating the gospel according to Stewart rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ. The difference is clearly seen if we are honest with our motives and desires. It is my nature to be selfish, it is Christ’s nature to be selfless. It is my nature to be greedy, while it is Christ’s nature to be generous. But as we continually experience the power of the gospel, we are made more into the likeness of Christ and spiritual formation is taking place. Demonstrating the gospel in our relationships becomes the driving force of spiritual growth.
If I act unkindly or impatiently, I am not living the gospel with Ashley. But if I find ways to serve her, to build her up, and encourage her, I am demonstrating the message of the gospel in an intimate way. We also have the recurring opportunity to demonstrate the gospel to one another in forgiveness and grace. If I hold a past sin over my spouse’s every action, I am not demonstrating the gospel, for this is not the way God treats us. But if I walk in the way of peace and forgive as I have been forgiven, I will demonstrate the mysterious and glorious beauty of the gospel to my wife and she will do the same to me. This is what it means to walk in love.
“Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” Ephesians 5:2.
As we demonstrate this love, may we be led by the Spirit and guided by his Word as we glorify God in our thoughts, words and deeds.