I remember back when Sarah and I were engaged our friends and family thew us an engagement party. One of the things incorporated into the event was a scrapbook that had a page dedicated to marital advice everyone could write in. This seems somewhat humorous to me now, considering more than half of the people present weren’t married themselves, not to mention that marital advice-giving was hardly kept contained to one page in a scrapbook.
What I found interesting was that the advice all seemed very inconsistent. Some would say you need to spend time with your spouse doing the hobbies they like; others would say you should let them have their time alone to do it. Some said the key to a happy marriage was spending time together; others said it meant not being too dependent on one another. Ideas concerning how to control the budget, manage vacations, incorporate immediate families, and share friends all varied. It seemed that no one really agreed on how to build a successful marriage.
In addition, resources from the Christian world also seemed to conflict with one another. While highlighting the differences between men and women, some authors said it is the man’s job to speak more like a woman, while another said the woman needs to learn how to interpret her husband.
Through it all I have come to a one sentence conclusion for all this information that beats them all. Love your wife. This simple command comes out of Ephesians 5:25 and Colossians 3:19. The passage in Ephesians stresses the sacrificial nature of such love, while the Colossians passage focuses on kindness.
The key truth I wish to highlight here, however, is neither the sacrificial nature nor the gentle nature of a husbands love, though certainly both are worthy of attention. Rather, I wish to emphasize the word your. Husbands, love your wife.
The reason all the marital advice often conflicts is because each person has learned how to love their spouse. They have figured out what works for them. However, what works for one couple may be disastrous for another. The key is not so much in the specific advice as it is what lies behind that advice: figure out who your spouse is, what they need, what makes them feel loved, and then do it.
This is the thinking behind the popular Love Languages series from Dr. Gary Chapman. In these helpful teachings, spouses are encouraged to learn how their partner best receives love in one of five main ways: physical touch, gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, and acts of service. While everyone enjoys all of these, certain ones will resonate more with certain people. So, the husband must find out how his wife best receives love and then love her in that fashion.
I believe that many marriages would thrive if spouses simply loved one another. Not love who their spouse was 20 years ago, not love the imaginary perfect spouse in their mind, not love someone else’s spouse, but rather love their spouse as he or she is right now. This takes effort, investing time to learn and study your partner to figure out how to best love them. This love must be specific love, meeting the real (not perceived) needs of a partner in ways that they consider helpful.
Scripturally, the call is focused on the husband to love his wife. This does not mean that a wife does not need to love her husband. But particular emphasis and responsibility is placed on the shoulders of the husband. No matter the state of your marriage, how difficult it may be, or even the presence of sin, husbands are called to initiate love. Any marriage can be healthy and strong when husbands love their wives, and vice versa.
A few ideas to try out:
- Take a personality quiz. They say opposites attract, but after marriage, opposites irritate. Figure out your personality differences and try to understand where your partner is coming from.
- Learn each other’s history. Because everyone has had different experiences, we all interpret life from a different angle. Take the time to share and learn about one another.
- Ask questions. Get to know one another and figure out how each other thinks. This will help you better know how to love your partner.
- Read The Five Languages of Love by Gary Chapman and work through the discussion questions.
- Stay engaged. We often forget that people change over time. You may not really know who your partner is anymore. Be present both physically and mentally in your relationship so as to keep up to date.
- Repent of sin. Sometimes conflict is not a matter of differences but of selfishness.
- Be proactive. Don’t always assume you can love your partner on the fly, because life gets busy. Figure out a system to regularly show love to your spouse in practical ways.
When I look at figures from the Bible and other admirable Christian leaders throughout history, there really seems to be two distinct characteristics that define them: character and competence. This may be oversimplifying it, but I’m not sure the basic truth can be overlooked. Any man or woman that God has used in positions of leadership (be it high-profile or low-profile) possessed both strong character and competence in their God-given tasks.
Look at Joseph, for example. Joseph was faithful to God for many years despite being hated by his brothers and being horrendously mistreated. If anyone had the right to complain about life not being fair, it would be Joseph. Yet his integrity remained intact despite every obstacle that came his way. God was gracious enough to raise Joseph up to save Egypt and literally the entire surrounding world in the face of severe drought. Additionally, Joseph demonstrated a knack for leadership, organizing the entire Egyptian empire in such a way that it became the most powerful nation on earth. Joseph had both character and competence.
Others come to mind as well. Nehemiah was a man who stood firmly for God while successfully leading a complicated building project. Joshua walked with God and functioned as a gifted army general. Esther demonstrated great trust in God on her way to saving an entire race from genocide. Paul was as passionate a Christian as there ever was and oversaw an amazingly successful church planting movement. Outside of the Bible, figures like Saint Patrick and Charles Spurgeon also come to mind. And, of course, Jesus tops them all as the sinless Savior who instigated the largest and fastest-growing movement in the history of the world.
The point is that effective leaders have both character and competence. They don’t need to be perfect (thankfully!), but they do need to have a genuine and growing walk with the Lord. And, they must also possess certain abilities that help them achieve the tasks to which God has called them. To have either one without the other kills the effectiveness of a leader.
It should be noted, however, that character precedes competence. They are not on an equal plane. If a leader has all the needed skills but has no character, they are not ready for Christian leadership. It seems that the typical pattern is that humble people are the ones God raises to positions of leadership, even if they don’t initially have all of the skills. God is the one who equips each leader with what they need to do his will, and the first thing any leader needs is the power of God. That comes through character.
In one sense, we are all leaders. God has a calling for each one of us to fulfill. Don’t just think of leaders as those with big names, big ministries, big educations, and big resources. Any humble servant God can use to effect change. I fact, he desires to do so!
A few questions for reflection:
- What are the tasks to which God has called me? List some of them.
- Do I spend more time sharpening my character or my competence? How can I rightly focus on character first?
- While focusing on my character, how can I also develop my level competence? What resources do I need to tap in order to be more effective?
One of the greatest inhibitors of the North American church is the consumer Christian. Few things drain resources and lag the advancement of the gospel more than this sin. Being a consumer Christian means you are more concerned about how a church fits your needs than how you can meet the needs of others. It includes a mindset that church exists for your benefit, rather than for God’s glory. Typically, consumer Christians have a few standard markers identifying them. They might include:
- Frequently moving from church to church because none seem “biblical” or “good enough”
- Regularly criticizing the way things are done while contributing little to nothing yourself
- Being more concerned with your own preferences than the good of everyone collectively
- A regular desire to see your own needs met while neglecting your responsibility to meet others’ needs
- Witholding financial giving from a church for virtually any reason
Consumer Christians, sadly, are common in our churches here in North America, likely because of the self-centered culture that exists all around us (and has affected the church in some regards). We see that the world around us caters to our every need; we wonder why God’s loving people can’t do the same. The unfortunate yet provoking reality is that a consumer Christian is no different than a parasite, selfishly sucking resources and contributing nothing to the very mission to which they too have been called.
Truth is, we all have a little of the consumer Christian in us. We’re all guilty of subtly (or maybe blatantly) thinking the church exists primarily for our own benefit. Before any of us are too quick to point the finger, we need to examine our own hypocrisy and consider how we have misplaced us at the centre of the universe instead of Jesus.
Here are a few things to consider in regards to consumer Christians:
- There may be a grain of truth in every criticism. Every church can do a better job of serving it’s people.
- Point them to Jesus. Encourage them to see the church as primarily existing for God’s glory and the proclamation of Jesus’ gospel.
- Help them to get connected. Christians who are serving have less time to complain because they are too busy doing kingdom work. Serving is the antidote to consumption.
- Motivate them with joy. Loving God and others in practical ways is one way in which Christians experience great joy and satisfaction.
Lastly, a few questions for a self heart-check:
- Am I more concerned about what I get out of church than if God is glorified and others are uplifted?
- Am I being generous with my time, abilities, and money?
- Am I expecting too much from the church?
- Do I do more talk than action in my Christian walk?
- How am I contributing to the mission of the church?
- How can I raise legitimate concerns in helpful ways?
- Have I considered that there may be logical reasons things are done the way they are that I don’t know about?
Don’t just consume…produce!
I’ve been thinking about doing a blog for almost 2 years now, and it has finally arrived! It feels kinda weird, actually, having my name in a url at the top of a web page…just more fuel to feed the pride it seems. Truth is, writing this blog has far less to do with me sharing my extremely valuable opinions on everything (chuckle here) than it does me honing my writing skills. I’ve enjoyed writing since high school, and someday I’d like to see some of my work published. You know what they say – practice makes perfect! Hence, welcome to jeremyedgar.wordpress.com.
On the other hand, some of the content you find here may be of value or interest to you. I’ll be writing about the 4 things I am most passionate about: Christianity, marriage, family, and ministry. That’s a pretty good sum of my life right there. I love Jesus, I love my wife, I love my kids, and I love the church. Hopefully, along the way you will find some things profitable to you personally.
In the future, I may also turn part of this blog into a resource tool for those I pastor and lead, adding things like my lesson notes with discussion questions, topical resources and book reviews, leadership training, or anything else that might be helpful. We’ll see, but for now I’m just going to start writing and see where it goes.
Thanks for joining me in my journey. God bless and have an awesome day!