On Becoming One

by John Meador

Today we want to focus on what it means to be in the process of becoming one. I was 21 years old when I was married and my wife was 20 and we thought we knew something about a good marriage because we had seen our parents in good marriages. But three to four weeks into marriage, we realized that we knew nothing about marriage.

You think marriage is all about basketball and pizza and having a good time together. But the problem is, you don't factor in all of the complications and financial problems. You don't factor in all the issues that children bring and all those kinds of things. When you start living marriage out, you realize you are under-equipped for it.

Now, God's Word does not leave us under-equipped. So let's look at what it means to become one. In Ephesians 5:28, Paul gives us the principle of oneness, that ought to be working in every marriage—and ought to be working in your lives now, if you are preparing for marriage: "He who loves his own wife loves himself." Oneness is unconditionally loving your spouse as you do yourself. We are not talking about feelings and emotions; we are talking about the activities of every-day living.

Guys, if you want a real challenge, ask your wife: "Honey, do you feel that I love you as well as I seem to love myself?" Give her full permission to say whatever she feels, and get ready. She may share things you have never considered—such as: "If you really loved me as much as you love yourself, why do you have one standard for yourself and one standard for me? Why do you spend the kind of money you spend on yourself and not spend it on me?" Dear friend, I am telling you, it is a sobering question.

The Principle of Oneness

This principle is not to depend on whether she lives up to my standards, or on her doing the things I want her to do (or his doing the things I want him to do, if you are a wife). It is not even to depend on your rising to my level of spiritual attainment, or giving the kind of sacrificial love that I think you ought to be giving. It means just plain, simple unconditional love. Agpe\  is the word for love used here, and it means to commit to love, regardless of response. This is where it really sinks in that becoming one is a high calling in life and not just a casual romp in the snow or pizza after basketball. It demands sacrifice to love somebody in an unconditional way. But this is the principle: loving someone unconditionally as you do yourself.

There is no conceivable situation that can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ (cf. Rom. 8:38-39). Now Paul says to husbands, "Love your wife that way." I am telling you, pizza and basketball can't get you ready for that.

Notice something about Ephesians 5:28: The word "ought" in "So husbands ought also to love their own wives" is a word of obligation. We are bound to this oneness.

Your spouse left her home, her security, everything behind in order to join with you in marriage. You owe her, at the very minimum, to love her unconditionally. You have an obligation to the woman that you asked to marry you. She is at your mercy because she has left all to follow you. Husbands, get your mind and your heart on your wife and love her like Christ loved the church. We are bound to it.

But we also benefit by it. When a wife is loved and nourished and cherished, she is free to respond in love. He loves her and she loves him and he receives the benefit of that love.

The cartoon character, Barney, really didn't have it far from the truth when he sang his little song, "I love you, you love me, we are a happy family" (or something like that). You think, what a shallow song, but the reality is, it is biblical truth—straight from 1 John 4:19: "We love Him because He first loved us."

As you begin to invest in her life, you bring her happiness—happiness in a loving relationship which provides a new home for her. That is a biblical principle. You are building a home for her that supersedes what she left. Dear friend, that ought to be the goal of every marriage. This is the principle of oneness.

The Activity of Oneness

What do we actually do to bring this about? Paul says. "For no one ever hated his own flesh" (v. 29). "Hate" here is not speaking of belligerent anger towards your spouse. It is more the opposite of agpe love. It is more like apathy, neglect, or slighting the other person. In other words, Paul says no one ever neglects his own flesh, but rather he nourishes it and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church. Yet in many marriages today, love has grown cold and responses to each other are apathetic; they slight one another. You would never do that to yourself, Paul says, so don't do it to your spouse. Instead, nourish and cherish her, just as Christ does the church. These words describe the activity of oneness:

"Nourish"

"Nourish" means to feed out of, to bring up out of one's own resources. It conveys the idea of self-sacrifice in order to provide something in marriage for the spouse's benefit. So the husband is to do whatever is required, sacrificing as one must sacrifice, in order to bring the wife to fullness in Christ and as a woman. He is to ask, What does my wife need in order for her to be her best? And if she feels free enough, she will be able to share with you what she believes she needs in order to be her best.

One of our great years of marriage was the year my wife informed me of a need. She said one day, "These (four) kids are wearing me out. They get up early in the morning and I can't have any time alone and I am not able to get dressed and I am not able to have a time with God. I just don't have any strength left. Could you possibly take care of them the first hour of the day and then let me have them as you go to work?"

At first, I thought there was no way I could do that. But I finally realized that she needed this more than she needed anything else. So for about the next year and a half, I took care of the kids after they woke up. We had French toast for a year and a half. We had a little quiet time, we sang together. They memorized verses. We had a great time. And in the meantime, Kim was able to get up at a slower pace and spend time with God. By the time she came out, she was spiritually ready to go. By the time she came out, I was ready to go, too, as you might imagine.

That year my wife and I grew closer than anything I could possibly have imagined. And I believe the reason is because we worked together to bring about the best in both of our lives and God used that in a great way. It was a wonderful year.

That is what nourishing is. And husbands are to take the lead in that.

"Cherish"

"Cherish" also appears in 1 Thessalonians 2:7—"But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children" (kjv). Paul was  saying, "We were there for you as a mother suckling her child. She is there to provide the warmth and the security and the intimacy that only the mother can provide." The same Greek word is used in the Greek Septuagint (Deut. 22), to describe a mother bird on her nest, sheltering and warming her babies—the very picture of protection and intimacy.

Husbands, you are to nourish and cherish your wife, as Christ does the church. Never let your wife feel like she is alone. Never let her feel like she has got to do all that she has to do by herself. Always treat her as being one with you, nourishing her and cherishing her.

Covenant Partners

Return with me to Genesis 2:22-24, because there are some principles here that apply to marriage today: "And the Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man." Now as far as we can tell, Adam immediately said: "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh."

Adam responded to God and to Eve on the basis of God's character, not on the basis of Eve's characteristics, which were really unknown to him at that point. Can you follow Adam's thoughts? "God, if You have provided this wife for me, and if You told me that she is going to be a perfect compliment to my life, then I will accept her just as she is, because I trust Your character."

Well, God is still in charge of arranging marriages. And even if we see marriages that we think are questionable and we doubt their validity, God is not caught by surprise. I don't know how God works all that together, but if He is a sovereign God, He is able to use every spouse to compliment his or her marriage partner. He is able.

Men, you need to respond to your wife based on God's character and not her characteristics. "But my wife frustrates me!" you say? God knows that, too. And since God knows that, why don't you try to find out exactly what is going on in that marriage that causes the frustration? Maybe you are supposed to respond in a certain way and maybe God will have to grow you in a certain area.

God knows her weaknesses, and yours. I have discovered that God will always use our mates' weakness to work on us. I believe God has used my weaknesses to work on Kim and Kim's weaknesses to work on me. We are very different, yet God put us together and uses that. The need that you find in your spouse's life is an opportunity for you to be needed! I have also learned that what we may think early on is a weakness, we will come to consider later as a strength, that God has used that in our lives or in our family in some way.

Note this: When we don't look at each other as God's covenant partners for us, we end up competing, we end up retaliating, we end up getting into the cycle of hurting each other. My friends, we are one in marriage. If you criticize your wife, you criticize yourself. If you tear down your wife, you tear down yourself. The principle runs throughout the whole range of responses. She is your perfect covenant partner.

But there is something else that we need to see in Genesis 2: God is witness to this covenant. We are one in His eyes by the vows we commit to each other and by the marriage act of covenant.

Preserving the Sanctity of Marriage

In 1 Corinthians 6:16, Paul writes, "Do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her?" No sexual encounter is missed by the eyes of God, who said that two shall become one flesh.

Then Paul goes further: "For the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him; therefore, flee immorality." The reason that immorality is so blatantly detestable in God's eyes is because it makes a mockery of the act of oneness of marriage. And more, it blasphemes and casts down all the holiness that God intended the act of oneness to have. That is why the only reason Jesus gave for divorce is immorality: it violates the marriage covenant.

Dear friends, since you are one, live every day by nourishing and cherishing, building up and letting God have His way in your life. Oneness is a fact. It is a command and a responsibility that blesses and satisfies.

Is the unity of oneness lacking in your marriage? Do you say, "I have blown it so many times, I don't know if we can ever have the kind of oneness that God wants us to have?" Know that where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. When you turn things over to God and really let Him have them, He forgives, He cleanses, He restores. He allows you to have the potential for restoration.

Ask Him for that healing.

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