Virtually the same sentence appears in Scripture three times: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6, Prov. 3:34; 1 Peter 5:5). It is very significant when the Bible repeats itself like this. One thing is certain: this truth is foundational to understanding God/human relations.

Here’s the brilliance of God’s design for humanity: the foundational human relationship (marriage) is a direct assault on our foundational spiritual weakness (pride).

Overcoming selfishness

Have you ever thought of marriage in this light? If you haven’t, you’ve probably resented your spouse for imposing on your selfishness, instead of seeing such circumstances as a call to grow in humility. Whenever you feel that your marriage has begun to "pinch your feet," instead of resenting the intrusion represented by your spouse, consider it an invitation to become just what God wants you to become: a more humble man or woman.

Biblical marriage assaults a man’s pride by insisting that he is to put his wife’s needs above his own. Paul says a Christian husband should maintain the attitude of a martyr toward his wife (Ephesians 5:26). We men value our independence; we resent being "tied down," or having some of our prime time impinged upon. We need marriage to help us become more humble.

Likewise, Biblical marriage assaults a woman’s pride by teaching her to love her husband (Titus 2:4). While the world says she needs to focus on standing up for her own rights, the Bible stresses becoming a helper who supports her husband and gives thought to his care.

Becoming more like Jesus

Humility as a virtue sounds so abstract, but the reality is as concrete as it gets: when we become more humble, we become more like Jesus, who described Himself this way: "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:28).

Your natural self got married primarily to be served; marriage becomes a vital spiritual opportunity when we use it to learn how to serve. Let’s not remove this "scandal" of marriage. Let’s teach our children that every good marriage begins with a funeral: the death of our selfish, independent and arrogant ways.

Gary Thomas is the founder and director of the Center for Evangelical Spirituality, a writing and speaking ministry that integrates Scripture, church history and the Christian classics. He is the author of many books, including Sacred Marriage, Sacred Parenting, Cherish, The Sacred Search and A Lifelong Love.

© 2008 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.

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