“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm” (1 Timothy 1:3-7).
“To encounter Christ is to touch reality and experience transcendence. He gives us a sense of self-worth or personal significance, because He assures us of God’s love for us. He sets us free from guilt because He died for us and from paralyzing fear because He reigns. He gives meaning to marriage and home, work and leisure, personhood and citizenship.” – John Stott
What are the false or “strange” doctrines of marriage found within the circles of the church today? We may be inclined to immediately turn and consider such controversial cultural issues as same-sex marriage, single parenthood or the laizze-faire attitudes toward divorce – and we would be right to do so. However, I am aware of far more insidious and incongruent beliefs of the heart which impact our unions more than these.
What if the Holy Spirit is saying the “certain people” in this passage is me? Yes, Paul had others in mind in Timothy’s church but what is He saying to me right now? How strange are the codes I live by within my daily interactions of marriage? In my “mind” I am confident I have reasonably sound doctrine and understanding of the Scriptural teachings of marriage – but what about my heart? What about my hands and feet? What if sound doctrine is not all that sound until it finds its expression in heart felt affection and acts of selfless love? “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge… but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2).
Robyn and I have often grieved over the things she and I argue and fight over. In the end, they are “meaningless babblings” and hold no great significance, whichever side of the poll we may lean. With my feet I find myself “devoted” to having to be “right” over the stupidest of things – “myths” really. With my hands I press my point endlessly in some arrogant, misguided attempt to find my identity through marital uniformity – which does not equate to marital union. With my heart I allow my “speculations” (opinions) to fester and grow rather than “advancing the work of God”.
And what is God’s work in our marriage? No doubt His greatest act of love was to reconcile us to Himself through Jesus. It was a gift of grace – not of my works lest I would boast – and I would. It was received through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).
So it is in marriage. If regeneration of degenerate mankind is His greatest work, a union of a man and woman is his second. The question is, am I “advancing” that work in my union with Robyn? This too is done through faith. Do I believe that God is greater than my arrogance and self-centeredness? Is He greater than my fears? My hurts? Our differences? It is by grace that God would desire to initiate a “refreshing” of our love on a daily basis. Will I receive that refreshment through faith?
Ultimately the goal in all the domains of my life is love – deep, rooted and enduring love. It is in marriage where that purpose has its most effective laboratory. Here I am called to hone and fine tune my skills of genuine “love making”. I have the opportunity to become more like Christ as I exorcise my lean toward self-obsession and adopt His willingness to become second in order to advance the work of God in Robyn.
Oh Lord, there is such a compulsive drive in me to satisfy myself with what is “false”. I call upon You to work in me to become Your image bearer as I live life with the woman of my youth. Empower me to advance Your work in our marriage. I believe You will complete this work in us and we will know each other as we are fully known by You. Through the work of God – Amen.