September 15, 2010

More Like Falling in Love, Part 2

 HUSBANDS, GO ALL OUT IN LOVE FOR YOUR WIVES, EXACTLY AS CHRIST DID for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting” (Eph. 5:25, Message).*
When I say I hate doing dishes, you can rest assured I mean it to the fullest extent of Webster’s definition. When I was a bachelor, I could get away with minimal investment in such activities by implementing the barter system to perfection. I can’t tell you how many times I ended up ironing my roommate’s shirts or brushing his dog’s teeth. Unfortunately, my wife is a tough bargainer. Usually, our trades end up being about as one-sided as Andre the Giant and my little brother on opposite sides of a seesaw.
A few weeks back she decided to take the kids to her parents’ house in North Carolina. For one week I was free from dishes (and three-hour shopping sprees at Pier 1). With the NBA season nearing its climax, I was looking forward to a week of basketball with the guys. I’d meant to pick up disposable dishes and utensils for the festivities. But that’s the thing about intentions: to be effective they have to mesh with reality. So I’m sure you can imagine what the “bachelor pad’s” sink looked like after a week.
2010 1531 page17Sunday morning . . . the day my family returns. Awakened by a subtle buzzing, I sleepily feel for my iPhone. It’s my friend Nate.
“Dude, I’ve got a tee time at 11, u in?”
Of course I was in. It’s my last day of freedom! Stumbling out of bed, I saunter to the kitchen for a quick bite. Uh oh, this place is a disaster. She’s going to kill me . . . unless . . .
At that moment I saw the situation in a way I hadn’t before. Sure, I could choose to play golf and let my wife come home to a messy house. She probably didn’t expect me to play Martha Stewart anyway. But I could also make another choice: I could choose dishes over golf. I could choose her over me. So I did; not out of obligation, but out of love.
It’s Because of This, Not That
Once I’m actually married, I’m not too worried about this situation playing out in my life; I’m way cleaner than any of the girls I’ve dated. But the heart of the matter exists in every marriage: Do I choose my own pleasure, or my spouse’s? As husbands (and wives), putting the other person above ourselves is the palpable manifestation of “I love you.” When our powerful words fail to yield selfless action, they become less and less meaningful.
But—and here’s the key point—acting unselfishly for your mate is not for the purpose of earning their love. Why would it be? You don’t have to earn it; he/she already loves you. Rather, the reason we humble ourselves in service is because we value their happiness more than anything else. Somewhere in here the “debate” about faith versus works gains some clarity.
Let me make one thing clear: There is absolutely nothing that can save this wretched sinner except the grace and blood of Jesus Christ. All I can do is accept that grace.
“What good is it . . . if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?” (James 2:14). Of course that “faith” can’t—that faith isn’t real. How would it be if I constantly told my wife I loved her but didn’t do one thing to make that love come alive? That “love” would mean nothing, because it wouldn’t be real. Similarly, “no-works faith” cannot save me because it’s not real. To be real it has to come alive in my interactions with those around me (see Matt. 25:35-46).
Feeding my Savior’s sheep and honoring Him isn’t something I do out of obligation. I do it because I love Him. I don’t do good things to be saved; I do them because I am saved.
Just remind me of that the next time I have to do the dishes. 
*Texts credited to Message are from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
A proud Nebraskan, Jimmy Phillips writes from Bakersfield, California, where he is marketing and communication director for San Joaquin Community Hospital. This article was published September 16, 2010.