The Greatest Gift (6/18/17

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Unless there are medical issues, helping conceive a child isn’t too difficult for most men. Being a good father to that child is one of the hardest things any man can do. Thankfully, all throughout the Bible, God gives men commands about how they should live. Ephesians 5:25-33 says,25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

Many times, husbands hear this command and automatically think, “I do love my wife like Christ loved the church. He died for his bride. I’d die for mine.” If this is you, let me ask you a question. How many men do you know of that have actually had to die for their wives?

I don’t know of any either.

When we go beyond the first verse and look closely at the rest of the passage, we see that not only did Christ die for the church, he also lived for it. He worked tirelessly at teaching about the kingdom of heaven, healing the sick and confronting mindsets that were wrong. This built a foundation for his relationship with his bride that has lasted almost 2000 years.

Realizing this helps us understand God also expects husbands to live for their wives. In many ways this is actually harder than dying for them because it requires work, sacrifice and humility. Look at what this passage commands husbands to do. Love their wives as much as they love themselves by making sure her needs are met. These needs aren’t just physical. They also include emotional and spiritual needs.

This passage was written during a time when many men viewed women as inferior because their bodily functions made it difficult for men to remain pure. Paul is telling them, “Husbands, don’t reject you wife. Cherish her. Take care of her. Let her know she’s loved and valued.”

Right before God commands husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church, he tells wives to have Godly submission towards their husbands (Eph. 5:22-24). This means both partners are responsible for providing a loving and healthy marriage.

Modern research shows that following these commands aren’t only beneficial for husbands and wives. They have a tremendous effect on children as well.

In The Marriage Factor, Margaret Renkl writes, “The emotional well-being of everyone in a family is directly tied to the quality of the parents’ relationship. Make a happy marriage a high priority, and the payoff for your children is huge as well.” In Why a Happy Marriage Makes for Happy Kids, Dr. Christine Carter says, “Our emotions are contagious, and so when a romantic partner loves us unconditionally, the happiness and security that love brings can spill over, to our children’s benefit. Romance also has the potential to make us better parents: positive emotions (like love) and the social support of a partner can make us warmer and more responsive to our children.”

These statements are based on valid research. According to a study done by Dr. John Gottman at the University of Washington, “Even the very youngest of children can pick up on the subtleties of happy and unhappy marriages. A study of 50 couples with 3-month-old infants found that the babies of unhappy marriages showed a markedly lower capacity for joy, concentration, and self-soothing than babies whose parents had thriving relationships”.

So, how do husbands and wives have a healthy relationship which makes their children healthier? Listed below are five simple things husbands and wives can do.

1) Work on your marriage. Many people get married thinking they’ll always be living on love and having warm, gushy emotions for each other. As a result, they start out their lives together putting their marriage on automatic pilot. What happens when a plane is put on automatic pilot and left there? Eventually it runs out of fuel and crashes.

Planes stay in the air because they’re maintained, refueled and controlled by the pilot during the most crucial times of the flight. Marriages are the same. They only thrive when both partners put forth effort to make them better. People who have healthy marriages work on them.

2) Appreciate each other. Thank each other for the “small” things they do for you and the family. Thank your spouse for cooking dinner, mowing the lawn or cleaning the bathroom. Don’t take each other for granted.

3) Connect in small ways. Kiss each other every morning before heading to work. Talk to each other while eating dinner instead of watching TV. Occasionally text each other. Hug each other throughout the day.

4) Fight fair. When one sinner marries another sinner, it’s inevitable that conflicts will occur. When they do, stick to the issues without getting into personal attacks. At times, agree to disagree. You don’t have to be right all the time. Make an effort to hear and understand your spouse’s viewpoint. Listen and then repeat back to the other person what you heard so you can be sure you understood what he or she said.

5) Be an active parent. It takes a tremendous amount of time to run a business, keep up a farm or work long hours for someone else. The 9-5 factory jobs are no longer a reality for most people. Most people can put as much effort into work as they want. However, working so much that you never have time to help raise your children should never be an option, especially for Christians.

Fathers, the greatest gift you can give your children isn’t your business, your farm or your fortune. The greatest gift you can give your children is to love their mother and the keep working at making your marriage stronger.