by Mike Genung
This article is written to husbands and wives.
One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “You shall love the lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22: 35-39
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her Ephesians 5:25
Recently, God hit me between the eyes with how much He values marriage.
I had heard sermons over the years on “husbands love your wives….” and honestly, my eyes glazed over most of the time. “Yeah yeah, I thought, I need to be extra nice to my wife, now tell me how to do that.” Part of my problem was that I was looking for the mechanics, the how-to: show me how to make her happy so I can move on to the next thing.
Jesus said that the second greatest commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” In comparison, “giving ourselves up” for our wives as is shown in Ephesians 5:25 is in a different league. The married man is commanded to love his wife as Christ loved the church… with over-the-top passion, like when He wept over Jerusalem, and sacrifice, like when He surrendered Himself to death on the cross.
As I compared the second greatest command to “husbands love your wives like Christ loved the church” it hit home, hard, that God wanted my relationship with Michelle to be exalted above every other human one. This is no “be nice to your wife and bring her flowers when you screw up so you can get her off your back” deal. This is about truly making her first, second only to God, and far above job, hobbies, sports, ministry, friends, or entertainment.
Understanding how important my marriage was to God made my left-brained desire to get a detailed road map for the mechanics of how to love Michelle far less important. Suddenly, it was a matter of the heart, of wanting to love my wife because our God-ordained marriage was His plan and was incredibly valuable to Him. There was a new urgency to realign my priorities and live them out, not just talk about it.
When the Lord opened my eyes to how big my marriage is in His eyes, my heart was lanced with conviction. I was forced to admit that I didn’t get it for much of the first 20 years of our marriage (we’ve been married since 1989). There were plenty of moments when I was loving to Michelle so it wasn’t all bad, but had I grasped from the start how much our relationship meant to God, I might have approached her differently.
And then I had to face all over again what I did to my wife with porn and adultery. Gulp. I sinned against Michelle and God in not loving her like I am commanded to every time I used porn, and when I committed adultery in 1991. I hurt her deeply to the point of destroying her self-esteem. I hated the sin more than ever now and it made me more determined to insure that I never hurt her that way again.
It’s not uncommon to hear a married man justify his porn and masturbation habit with statements such as “I’m doing it less than before; it’s not as bad now”… “just a few minutes looking at the pictures”… “I can’t give up the internet or TV;”…I’m accountable with other men; what my wife doesn’t know won’t hurt her.”
Every use of porn is adultery (see Matthew 5); sin against the wife and God. Your wife may not know about it, but it will affect your marriage because it warps your character into pride and selfishness mode (not to mention the guilt, shame and emptiness), which are deadly to a marriage.
What about the wife’s side?
For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear. 1st Peter 3:5-6
Sarah’s submission to Abraham was so great that she called him lord. Here again this is beyond the kind of relationship we see in the 2nd greatest commandment. Aside from the relationship with God, nothing is to come before a wife and her husband – not kids, parents, friends, hobbies or ministry.
Some women will have to take a hard look at God-given priorities of their lives. If he was asked, would your husband say that you’ve put him above all others, second only to God? Some women struggle with making their husband a bigger priority than their relationship with their parents. In Genesis 2:24 we’re told a man is to “leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Both husband and wife are to cut the cords with their parents; anything less interferes with the “two becoming one flesh” process, causing jealousy and discord.
Making your husband first doesn’t mean that you allow him to abuse you, or continue to use porn or commit adultery, or do anything less than give his best effort to break free from sexual sin. Nowhere in Scripture are you told to be a doormat. The challenge is to keep your priorities in line with God’s heart for you and your husband, even as you navigate the road to healing for your marriage.
Knowing that God wants the marriage relationship to not just survive, but thrive, the couple who have had their marriage rocked by porn and/or sex addiction still have a powerful call to fight through to healing. For the man, this means going all out to break free from porn/sex addiction, no matter what it takes, realigning his priorities so his wife is above everything but God, and consistently taking the actions of love to prove that he values her. This will take consistent, focused effort on his part, because the truth is that many men value sports, work, ministry, or their stuff more than their wives. The easy way to know how you’re doing is to ask your wife on a scale of 1 to 10 to rate your marriage, and why. Don’t ask if you’re not willing to face the truth and do something about it.
The wife will have to battle through all of the pain and betrayal, and fight through to the place of forgiveness. Then, as her husband shows her by his actions that he is serious about giving his porn/sex addiction the death-blow and valuing their relationship above all others, she will need to release her fears of getting hurt again and hand out morsels of trust.
One caveat on the wife’s side: do not make Aunt Betty the Battleaxe who has it in for your husband your mentor or “encourager.” You want another woman coming alongside who will be a calming influence and wants to see your marriage restored, as opposed to pouring gasoline on the fire.
This is a tough process that takes years to work out, and there may be setbacks along the way. Communication may be strained at times as you work through your issues and rebuild your marriage.
When times get tough, remember that the Lord put you two together; your marriage is a precious gem to Him, and He wants your marriage restored. He’s quite capable of reshaping your marriage into something new and wonderful that is stronger than before. I know, because He’s done it with mine.
The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord saying, “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will announce My words to you.” Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make. Jeremiah 18:1-4