“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church– For we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church.” (Reference: Ephesians 5:25-32 )
What ever changes have come about in the tradition of marriage, marriage itself – two people finding each other and committing to stand by each other no matter what happens – has not changed. If it has changed, then let us hope it is for the better. If it remains the same, let it be at the same high standard it has always been.
There are many standards of marriage, beloved. Many ways to plan and conduct a marriage, a wide variety of traditions to follow. Many ways to live out a married life. The traditional ideas of marriage are being challenged; but again, I hope the standards of care and compassion in a marriage stay the same.
You might think that historic Anabaptists knew little about marriage and what makes marriage bliss. From their letters and writings, it seemed to be a strict life. But there are small windows into their lives that show deep passion and intimate regard. Jan van Hasebroeck’s letter to his wife just before his death is such a window. It may not be the sort of “love letter” we are used to, but listen carefully to what he says, and imagine a contemporary spouse saying these things. Then you will start to know the depth of emotion he had for his wife.
“O my most beloved wife, whom I have wedded before Christ and His church, for a helpmeet in my pilgrimage, over which helpmeet the Lord has place me as head and protector, to feed and nourish you as my own body. Eph. 5:28. Now, my most beloved, if I have not well attended to my calling, during the time that we have been together; if I have grieved you in anything, I kindly ask you from the bottom of my heart, to forgive me; I have asked the Lord with tears, to forgive me. O my dear wife, I forgive you from the heart everything you may have done amiss to me. O my dear wife, you have done nothing amiss to me; but I have grieved myself; hence I have prayed the Lord, to forgive me the same.”
Consider than, beloved, that Christ loves us in this way. To Christ, through Christ’s death, we are as pure as van Hasebroeck envisions his wife – pure without flaw. To be loved like that beloved! Selah!