This article begins a series looking at Colossians 3:12-17 and how it applies to marriages.
This past summer, I participated joyfully in the wedding of two teenagers whom I discipled through their junior high and high school years. It was great. In some ways I felt like a “proud papa” as I listened to them say their vows. I preached their wedding sermon and they had assigned me Colossians 3:12-17. As I studied the passage and prepared the sermon, I was increasingly convinced this passage contained foundational principles for a solid, Godly marriage.
One of these foundational principles lies at the very beginning of this passage. It's easy to overlook this principle because the main focus of this passage is the four commands. However, these commands are grounded in a powerful reality. Paul says, “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved.” This is who you are at the core of your being. This is your identity. You are a chosen one of God, chosen before the foundations of the earth to be His. You are also holy and God’s beloved. You are loved by God. It’s out of this identity that the following commands overflow, but it’s important for us to take time to understand how this identity plays out in our marriage relationships.
We all remember what it feels like to fall in love. We remember the excitement of someone being interested in us--choosing us--and the possibility of them loving us. I still remember the night that I realized that I loved the women who would eventually become my wife. I remember feeling like I was in the clouds--on top of the world. I also remember the night she told me she would be my wife. These moments stick in our minds and are formative for our future. However, it’s easy to get swept up in these feelings and memories and forget our first identity, the identity Paul reminds us of in this passage. We are not just chosen by our spouse. We are not just our spouse’s beloved. God chose us first. God loved us first.
That reality changes everything. Long before your spouse ever chose you, God chose you. Long before your spouse noticed you and set you apart from the crowd, God set you apart. Long before your spouse loved you, God loved you first. This reality puts things in the right perspective. It will put your priorities in order. Since God was the first one to choose you, set you apart, and love you, you must love God first, even more than you love your spouse. You must worship and serve Him first. And, you must fight to keep Him as your number one priority. If you don’t, you might undermine the very foundation of your marriage.
To say this another way, you must love God first if you want to properly love your spouse. The same is true for loving your children. This is very different from what our culture is going to tell you. However, putting your spouse in a position higher than God is not loving, it’s putting them in a position they cannot fulfill. They will only let you down and disappoint you from this position. They cannot fulfill the needs that need to be met as the number one priority in your life. You will find yourself frustrated, angry, and disappointed if you make your spouse responsible for being your greatest source of fulfillment and devotion. Not only will all of this cause your love to fade toward your spouse, but your spouse will not actually feel loved either. So, love your spouse more by placing God in a higher priority.
John Piper wrote a poem called “Love Her More and Love Her Less." He wrote this poem to his son on his wedding day. However, I believe it’s just as applicable to wives as it is husbands, just insert “husband” wherever you read “wife.” He begins the poem by telling his son to love his wife more than wealth, friends, ease, sex, art, fame, and even to love his wife more than his own breath. Then he ends the poem with some powerful words to his son. I’ll close this article with the same words John Piper closes his poem:
Yes, love her, love her, more than life;
O, love the woman called your wife.
Go love her as your earthly best.
Beyond this venture not. But, lest
Your love become a fool's facade,
Be sure to love her less than God.
It is not wise or kind to call
An idol by sweet names, and fall,
As in humility, before
A likeness of your God. Adore
Above your best beloved on earth
The God alone who gives her worth.
And she will know in second place
That your great love is also grace,
And that your high affections now
Are flowing freely from a vow
Beneath these promises, first made
To you by God. Nor will they fade
For being rooted by the stream
Of Heaven's Joy, which you esteem
And cherish more than breath and life,
That you may give it to your wife.
The greatest gift you give your wife
Is loving God above her life.
And thus I bid you now to bless:
Go love her more by loving less.
Rev. Deb Koster
Dr. Robert Ritzema