Stuart and I have been married 52 years. What a gift! All these years to love and serve the Lord, each other, our family, and the family of God! We thank God for half a century of such privilege.
I wrote a book 29 years ago called “Fight for the Family.” Using the analogy of Nehemiah building the walls of Jerusalem, I began by explaining that the wall had fallen down around the Christian family in the 1980s as surely as it had fallen down around the family of God – the remnant of Israel that remained in Jerusalem.
Nehemiah, who was a slave, obtained permission from the King to return to Jerusalem and rebuild its walls. He began the rebuilding process by going out at night and surveying the damage. He circumvented the walls around the city. He then gathered the leaders and addressed them. Read his words of encouragement to the remnant…to the Israelites who were willing to do the hard work necessary to rebuild their homes:
“After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, ‘Don’t be afraid of them (the opposition). Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes’” (Neh. 4:14, NIV).
In other words, fight for your families!
The Christian concept of the family is under incredible attack. The walls have fallen down and all that remains of many homes – even those built on Christian foundations – are heaps of rubble. Today, as soon as anyone who cares about the family bends down to pick up a brick and begin the repairs, the opposition appears, just as it happened in Nehemiah’s day.
As I was writing this book, I quoted Nathan Ackerman, a psychiatrist, who said pessimistically: “I am a psychiatrist who has devoted a lifetime to studying emotional problems of family living. I have pioneered in the field of family therapy. From where I sit, the picture of marriage and family in present day society is a gloomy one. Family life seems to be cracking at the seams and an EFFECTIVE MORTAR is nowhere available.” This was penned 50 years ago!
I want to tell you there is an effective mortar!
It’s called love…the love of God that we can experience and enjoy in our hearts when we invite Jesus Christ to invade our loveless lives and live within.
Stuart and I can bear witness to the fact that as we have allowed His love to control our lives AND BECAUSE OF HIS endless patience with us, we have increasingly learned how to be patient, kind, and unselfish. (All virtues we both lack!) But then for this we have Jesus! The Scriptures say that “God’s love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” We run out of our own human love. But we never run out of God!
In 1 Corinthians 13, the apostle Paul describes agape love – love God style. Love is patient, and patience is longsuffering. We don’t suffer well or long. But God is longsuffering and we have that power available to us when the Spirit of God indwells our lives. Kindness is doing good to the other person while waiting out a difficult spell in a marriage. Love is kind and waits well.
We are still learning how to do love’s hardest work – that of forgiveness. Ruth Bell Graham used to say that “marriage is made up of two good forgivers.” We have learned to try and be the first to say “sorry” and to encourage and support one another. We believe that selfishness destroys marriages and that only the transforming power of Jesus can help thoroughly selfish people (like us) to love anyone else!
Love doesn’t covet, says Paul. It doesn’t want things that other people have like bigger houses, cars, clothes. Love is content with the things it has and isn’t always wanting, wanting, wanting what it doesn’t have. The content in contentment is found in Christ! Coveting material things that others possess can cause tension and problems in a marriage. I have found that the better I know God, the more I am content with whatever things I have or don’t have!
Love never fails, Paul tells us. It doesn’t mean that love never fails to get a response. Sadly, we know that isn’t true. It means love never fails to go on loving, whether it gets a response or not! What an incredible 52 years we have had as we have partnered together and God has kept our marriage firm with His wonderful mortar of love.
Even though for years we have actually lived apart for the sake of the Gospel (in fact I seem to have lived my life always missing someone!), our love has deepened and grown and the mortar has held!
So in Nehemiah’s words, “don’t give up.” Do what he did. Take a trip around the walls of your marriage and when you see the cracks and danger signs, get to work and fight for yourselves, your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes. Fight for your family!
Yours in His love,