Motivation is a funny thing. All of us are motivated by something. Some motivations are good: a new personal best, an organized home office, educated, well-rounded, Godly children, a deeper walk with Christ, glory for God, and so on. Some aren’t: insecurity, greed, pride, image, personal power, selfish ambition, and so on. Identifying our motivations (something few ever do) can be a great step in the development of virtue and Godliness as it provides us the opportunity to see our motivations for what they are in the light of God’s Word (one of the main reasons most never do it).
This proves especially helpful in marriage. Are we motivated by Godly things? Is what moves us in line with God’s Word? If you’re married, when was the last time you examined your motivations? God has placed no small expectations upon you and the vows you exchanged before God and witnesses are certainly nothing to sneeze at. Husbands are called to be Christ-figures daily dying to their personal ambitions so that they may tend to their wife’s well-being; wives are called to be the Church-figure daily submitting to their husband’s Christ-like headship. Such a calling requires a mighty motivation – especially in the grit and grind of life!
St. Paul speaks of this mighty motivation in Ephesians 5. Transitioning from his instructions for Christians to his exhortation for husbands and wives, Paul calls believers to submit to one another “out of reverence for Christ” (5:21). “Out of reverence for Christ” a wife is moved to submit to her husband’s loving headship, just as the church does to her head – Christ. “Out of reverence for Christ” a husband is motivated to lay down his life for the well-being of his wife, just as Christ has done for the church.
Reverence for Christ is to be our motivation, but what does that mean? “Reverence,” in many cases, has been relegated to irrelevance. Few are the couples who approach marriage with reverence for Christ. Few are the couples who even know they should. One need look no further than the number of unmarried Christians living together, pretending to be husband and wife without the public promise before God and witnesses of life-long faithfulness. Reverence for Christ has been pushed aside in the name of convenience. It happens within marriage as well when spouses are motivated by power or selfish pleasure or settling the score. Christ is not revered.
So what does it mean to revere Christ? Paul makes it clear in his letter to the Ephesians. The word for reverence, at is base, is the word for “fear.” Depending of its context, it can take on different nuances of meaning such as terror or feared punishment or trembling. Here, the reverence/fear of Christ, of which Paul speaks, isn’t a defensiveness due to the fear of some evil from Christ; they’re not scared that He’s going to zap them with a surprise lightning bolt if they fail in their call to show love and respect. Instead, the Scriptures are calling husbands and wives (and husbands and wives to be) to heed God’s call of mutual submission in marriage out of respect for Christ’s holiness and a profound awareness of the long-concealed mystery that Christ reveals – the mystery that from eternity they, as members of the baptized, were chosen in Christ to be adopted as children of God.
Christians are to reflect upon this deep mystery daily. In Christ they have been chosen to inherit the Kingdom of God! In marriage God gives couples the opportunity to be a living picture of where this mystery has been revealed: Christ and the church! Out of reverence for Christ, then, Christians honor God’s purposes for marriage. Before marriage they keep the marriage bed pure (Hebrews 13) out of reverence for Christ. In marriage, they daily drown their ungodly motivations and resolve anew to love and respect their spouse out of reverence for Christ. May all our marriages be motivated out of reverence for Christ. – Pastor Conner