The primary, most important calling of all Christians is to love God and love one’s neighbor (Matt. 22:34-40). Love for one’s neighbor is the physical manifestation of your love for God. Since God does not live among us in a corporeal form or otherwise engage us in a physical manner, it is easy to profess love for God. Yet your relationship with God is reflected by your interaction with your fellow person. As the image bearers of God, the way we interact with others who are also made in God’s image reveals how fully conformed to the likeness of God we are becoming. “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:20).
Without a doubt, your spouse is your closest, most intimate neighbor. Regardless of whether a person is initially compelled to marriage for carnal reasons (the desire for sex is, at least in part, a legitimate reason to want to get married (1 Cor. 7:8-9)), spiritual reasons, or some combination of the two, the call of marriage is to love God as evidenced by love for his or her spouse. Although the pursuit of love for God is the primary goal, it is inseparable from the pursuit of loving your mate.
Within the context of marriage, we must understand the concept of “one flesh” as more than a platitude or a reference only to the sexual nature of humanity. We must see one flesh as the communal calling of marriage in light of God’s call to love him and love your neighbor. Marriage is an entirely unique participation in the divine mystery of a holistic oneness between man, woman, and God that reflects Christ’s relationship with the church (Eph. 5:21-33). In marriage, couples find a joint purpose in God that transcends the couple’s sharing of a home and a bed. Marriage becomes the vessel in which couples grow in holiness together through their shared life in Christ. It is the purposeful reorientation of life toward discipleship as it is specifically expressed in your relationship with your mate. It is a visible, outward manifestation of covenant living, serving, commitment, intimacy, grace, forgiveness, and love. It is the means by which a husband and wife truly become “salt and light” to the world around them.
Often, it is the person who we should (and do) love the most, our closet neighbor in every possible way, that we take for granted the most. It's shocking how easy it is to be rude or insensitive to one's mate; how carelessly one speaks or acts toward his/her lover. Continually remind yourself that you are each other's closest neighbor, and the world will see what you really think of God by how you treat each other.
UPCOMING MARRIAGE ENRICHMENT RETREAT WEEKEND: Labor Day weekend, Friday, August 31-Sunday, September 2, 2012 at Fall Creek Falls State Park in middle Tennessee. More info will be posted later.