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Cherish: The One Word That Changes Everything for Your Marriage
by Gary Thomas
Learn More | Meet Gary Thomas
Chapter OneTo Love and to Cherish
Millions of couples getting married have pledged to “love and to cherish until death do us part.”
Most of us get the love part, but what does it mean to cherish? Is that word just an add-on? Why do we say it once at the wedding and then rarely even mention it again?
Exploring and understanding what it means to cherish each other will enrich, deepen and spiritually strengthen our marriages. It is, I believe, not just a throwaway word, but an idea that helps us better understand what we are called to do and be in marriage. Learning to truly cherish each other turns marriage from an obligation into a delight. It lifts marriage above a commitment to a precious priority.
Cherish is the melody that makes a marriage sing.
What do we mean when we use the word “cherish?” Let me paint a picture of cherish, which in turn offers a definition.
Khanittha “Mint” Phasaeng, a 17-year-old newly crowned Thai beauty queen—whose 2015 pageant win, according to the Daily Mail, led to lucrative film, advertising, and television contracts—returned to her home town and set off an Internet sensation when she was photographed showing honor to her trash-collecting mother by kneeling at her feet.
Mint’s mother literally collects and sells trash for a living, so that’s why Mint found her in front of trash bins when she returned from her triumphant win, still dressed with the tiara and sash that marked her as one of Thailand’s new celebrities.
Mint didn’t just honor her mother with her actions, but with her words, calling her mother’s trade an “honorable profession” that kept their family from starvation, and praising her mother’s commitment and care.
This sign of respect, adoration, gratitude and honor—going out of your way to notice someone, appreciate someone, honor someone, hold someone dear—in such a visible way, even kneeling at their feet, is a picture of what we could call “cherish.” Mint wants the world to see her mother’s beauty, character and value, so she went out of her way to showcase her mother to the world. Almost no one would even know who Mint’s mother is, except as she has been defined, so to speak, by this act of being cherished.
The opposite of cherish is contempt. To hold contempt for someone is to loathe them, to want others to see the worst of them, or to ridicule them. Contempt is also displayed by apathy. While cherish is a deliberate, often outlandishly wonderful action and affirmation, contempt can be a malicious withholding of attention, purposefully or even just lazily ignoring someone, treating them as if they are not even worthy of your attention.
I once asked a very frustrated wife to tell me three positive things about her husband. She paused for a long time, finally said, “He’s dependable, except when…” and then spent several minutes explaining how, in fact, he’s not really dependable at all.
She never got to point two or three of the positive things, by the way.
That’s contempt. She couldn’t offer just one compliment without turning even that into a rant.
Holding contempt for each other will kill your marriage. Learning to cherish each other will remind you of why you’re married and will raise your marriage to a new level.
And yes, cherish is something that can be learned. That’s what this book is all about. God’s word instructs us, his Spirit empowers us, and his truth enlightens us to shape our hearts in such a way that we are able to cherish someone who “stumbles in many ways” (James 3:2), even as God cherishes us as we stumble in many ways.
The hope behind learning to cherish each other in marriage is found in this: God is more than capable of teaching us and empowering us to treat our spouses, the way he treats us.
In fact, it’s precisely this kind of cherishing—honoring someone you wouldn’t normally think would or should be cherished—that draws such attention. Let’s go back to Mint. It’s not a headline when someone curtsies before the queen of England. That happens every day. Treating a queen like a queen is to be expected. It’s merely giving someone their due, like stopping at a red light or giving a customer back his change. What becomes an Internet sensation is when an anonymous rubbish scavenger and seller is given the honor normally reserved for royalty.
Christian marriage is about learning to cherish by treating our spouse like royalty. Our king. Our queen. There’s a lot of theological truth behind this thought, as we’ll discover in later chapters.
Learning to view and cherish your spouse as a ruling regent isn’t just a biblical command; it will also create a more wonderful and more fulfilling marriage. It will eventually make others envious. And, the way God set this world up, cherishing your spouse will do marvelous things for your own soul, too.
You’ve been challenged to love in many marriage books. This book will challenge you to cherish, to take your love to an entirely new level.
Here’s the theme, right up front: Through the biblical act of proper cherishing, we can empower our spouse to become who they are called by God to be, and in the process become more of who we are called to be, creating a marriage that feels more precious, more connected, and more satisfying.
Cherishing leads us to a life of spiritual privilege as it can only be sustained by God’s grace. That makes cherishing a demonstration of God’s power and presence. I am not, in any way, diminishing “love” as the main qualifier of a biblical marriage. Love will always be the backbone of biblical relationships. But studying cherish, with its special qualities, puts a polish on love, makes it shine, and thus adds a special sparkle to our life and marriage.
Just look at what it did to the marriage of Hugh and Kathy Ross.
A Brilliant Match
Dr. Hugh Ross, a Canadian-American astrophysicist, captivated the attention of five thousand people at Second Baptist Church, Houston as he made it seem patently ridiculous from scientific evidence alone to not believe in God. The ease with which he drew complicated numerical equations out of his mind—in response to spontaneous questions, not prepared notes—left most of us feeling like we were thinking with a different species of brain. Yet, near the end of his talk, Dr. Ross confessed that he is “very high on the autistic scale” and that if it wasn’t for his wife Kathy, he’d be in a much different place.
While a continuous line of autograph seekers waited to get Dr. Ross’ autograph, Kathy told me her story of meeting a brilliant young Cal Tech student doing his postdoctoral studies while working at a church.
Hugh was (and is) passionate about science and God; his intellect opened many doors that otherwise might have stayed shut, but his autistic tendencies were holding back his influence. As a friend, Kathy tried to help him.
“What do I need to do?” Hugh asked her.
“Let’s start with the haircut. And then the clothes. Stripes don’t go with plaid, for instance. And you need pants that cover the socks, not to mention socks that match your pants. Use personal examples after you explain the spiritual/scientific principle so people can relate to what you’re saying. Oh, and Hugh, this is very important: look at people when you talk to them. It makes a huge difference.”
Kathy used a little more tact and grace than I’ve made it sound in this truncated form, but she remembers that Hugh literally took out a card and wrote down notes as she talked. “Haircut. Clothes. Personal examples. Look people in the eye. Got it.”
Hugh went to Macy’s and asked the saleswoman to dress him. He got a haircut, simply telling the hairdresser to make it look “normal.” He returned to the academic setting as a transformed man. He concentrated not just on what he was saying, but how he was saying it—including looking people in the eye. The level of his impact took giant steps forward, which made Hugh all the more grateful to Kathy.
Kathy began to feel her heart moving romantically toward Hugh, but she told me she couldn’t imagine that a man of Hugh’s intellect and impact would be interested in her. Besides, with all the autistic stuff, how would that work out? Her heart was set first and foremost on the Gospel; that’s not a cliché; that’s an accurate description of who she is. “God,” she had often prayed, “If I could help anyone come to know you, that’s what I want to do.”
That’s why she was so drawn to Hugh; she saw what Hugh was already doing on behalf of God’s Kingdom, but even more she saw untapped potential if he had just the right support. Perhaps she could reach more people helping Hugh than by launching her own ministry.
Hugh found his own heart churning as well. In a matter-of-fact way typical of those far along on the autistic scale, his “romantic” invitation was as follows: “Kathy, it’s helpful for me to spend time with you. I’d like to spend more time with you. With my studies and my work at the church, I have only one day off a week, but would you like to spend that one day off getting to know each other better?”
Believe it or not, that was enough to melt Kathy’s heart. They dated, got engaged, and have been married for decades, faithfully serving God together.
I described the “marriage is ballet” metaphor (which I introduce in chapter 3) to Kathy and her eyes lit up; it describes her life. She found a brilliant but socially awkward man. By supporting, turning, encouraging, and loving him, she has shown his brilliance to the world. Many have come to embrace the Gospel for the first time because of Hugh’s witness and intellectual persuasion, with Kathy standing right behind him. Countless Christians have had their faith reaffirmed.
What makes the Ross’ marriage work is that Hugh doesn’t fault Kathy for not being an astrophysicist and Kathy doesn’t expect Ross to act like a man who doesn’t have lingering effects of autism. Hugh knows he wouldn’t be where he is without Kathy, and Kathy believes her life’s impact has been enhanced by Hugh’s ministry, not diminished. She’s not embarrassed by his autism—she’s proud of how God is using him. In short, this is a couple that cherishes each other and that builds each other up. Too many married couples do exactly the opposite—they tear each other down.
Neither one is perfect, but rather than having their love diminished by each other’s imperfections, they cherish each other’s gifts, marvel at what God has done, and the two of them have become far more as a team than either one would ever have been as an individual.
This is the power of cherish.
Are you ready to enter a new dimension of marriage?
Then focus on that oft-forgotten second word in the marriage vows: what it means to cherish.
We promise to love and cherish each other in our marriage vows, so why do we talk so much about love and so little about cherish?
Cherish means to go out of our way to notice someone, appreciate someone, honor someone, and hold someone dear.
Contempt is the opposite of cherish
The theme of this book is: Through the biblical act of proper cherishing, we can empower our spouse to become who they are called by God to be, and in the process become more of who we are called to be, creating a marriage that feels more precious, more connected, and more satisfying.
The God who cherishes the imperfect us can teach us and empower us to cherish our imperfect spouses.
By cherishing each other, Hugh and Kathy Ross have increased their effectiveness in Kingdom work and maintained great happiness in their marriage.
1. Did your wedding vows contain the words, “to love and to cherish”? Why do you think we talk so much about love and so little about cherish?
2. Describe a marriage where one or both partners practiced cherishing their spouse. What did it look like? How did it inspire you?
3. Have you ever seen a marriage marked by contempt? Why do you think this becomes so common in marriages?
4. If our marriages have become marked more by contempt for each other than cherishing each other, how might our hope in God give us hope in our marriages? (Consider Zechariah 8:6: “Thus says the LORD of hosts: Even though it seems impossible to the remnant of this people in these days, should it also seem impossible to me, says the LORD of hosts?” NRSV)
5. Hugh and Kathy Ross are both realistic about each other’s strengths and shortcomings. Cherishing each other doesn’t call us to deny reality, but rather to accept and perhaps even improve reality (which we’ll get to in later chapters). Describe what cherishing each other, at its highest ideal, would look like in your marriage. Be specific and personal.
Chapter TwoRock and Romance
In the midst of a busy couple of weeks, Lisa and I decided to turn off the higher levels of our brains and go see San Andreas, a disaster movie starring Dwayne Johnson, also known as “the Rock.” Talk about a man. As Lisa and I exited the theater, I confessed, “Sheesh—the Rock is like a different species than me.”
“I’m not going to lie,” Lisa said. “You’re a really good man, but if there was an earthquake, having the Rock nearby would be kind of nice.”
I started to feel insecure. “But could he run ten miles in 90-degree heat like I did this morning?”
Lisa snorted, “With someone on his back!”
I stepped into that one, so I withheld my next thought: “Could he preach a sermon like I’m going to do tomorrow?” I could just imagine my wife saying, “Gary, the Rock’s body is a sermon.”
We live in a world where the astonishingly fit and large guys, or painstakingly beautiful and fit women, make us feel like we just don’t measure up. And by those standards, most of us don’t.
We all desire to be cherished, and the nobler amongst us might take joy in cherishing others, but is it biblical? Even though something sounds good to us, that doesn’t mean God necessarily commands or wants it. But what if, in this case, he does?
Cherish is an English word, so when looking at Scripture we have to look at the concept of cherish as much as any particular word that comes close to what we think of as cherish. It is our job to dive into the biblical definition of cherish, not the English one.
Let’s begin with Ephesians 5.
A Love Story unlike Any Other
More than Romeo and Juliet; more than Abelard and Heloise; more than Paris and Helen of Troy; more than—much more than—Brad and Angelina, the defining romance for Christians to follow is Jesus and His church. Jesus cherishes His church more than Romeo cherished Juliet, more than Abelard desired Heloise, more than Paris coveted Helen, and more than Brad longed for Angelina.
The ultimate “romance,” if you will, biblically speaking, is Jesus and the church. And the astonishing truth of Scripture is that our marriage should reflect that romance more than it is a vehicle of our own happiness and fulfillment. Cherishing our spouse is thus about showcasing a cosmic truth.
Ephesians 5:25-33 will seem exclusive for men, but women, please hang in there with us and read this. You’ll soon see how it applies to you: Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (ESV—I want to stick with ESV here to keep the word “cherish” in the text)
Cherishing is not about creating a happy marriage or a more pleasant home as much as it relates to our commitment to God and His Kingdom, i.e., showing God to the world and ourselves: “The love of the husband for his wife is a necessary, voluntary, joyful, and public affirmation of the love of Christ for his body, the church.” What this means husbands, is that cherishing our wives is about far more than cherishing them as individuals, lovely as they are: it is equally about affirming how Christ loves the church.
When someone sees how I treat my wife, they should be reminded of how Christ treats the church. When I cherish my wife, both she and I are reminded of how Christ cherishes the church. This makes Christ more real, more present, to us. Through our daily interactions of cherishing each other we enter into that sacred “profound mystery” that Paul speaks of.
Paul could not have set the bar any higher. Notice, three times—three!—Paul emphasizes one thing: husbands are to “love your wives” (v. 25); “So husbands ought also to love their own wives” (v. 28); “Each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself.” (v. 33)
If you were to ask Paul, “How does a Christian husband act toward his wife?” He would no doubt say, “Love her, love her, love her.”
Paul didn’t get this from his Old Testament studies. This isn’t how ancient Jewish teachers described, defined, and taught marriage. This is a distinctly Christian message, birthed in Christ, modeled in Christ, empowered by Christ, to showcase Christ.
I love the way Markus Barth summarizes Christ’s attitude toward the church, which is the model for our attitude toward our wives. Men, this is cherish Jesus-style: “Though Christ’s love includes features found in many a strong, wise and devoted man’s love, there is something unique in his love: this lover has the will, the power, and the success to make his bride perfect. He loves his beloved only for her own sake. He seeks no other or higher reward than her alone. His love, incorporated in his bride, is an end in itself. The Messiah has set out and will not rest until she appears before himself glorious and free of any defect. He says and wants to say forever, “How lovely you are.”
Notice there’s actually a strategy behind this attitude. It puts them in an environment where they have the ability to spiritually flourish. In one sense, we “serve Christ up to them” on a daily basis. When we love our spouses this way, it often leads to some very good things: they achieve their full glory in Christ.
The Strategy behind the Command
Jesus’ love was freely given, but in one sense it was also a strategy: “so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (v. 27, ESV)
As Westcott put it, “Christ loved the Church not because it was perfectly lovable, but in order to make it such.” In the same way, we are to love our wives not because they are perfectly lovable, but in order to make them such. We want them to surrender their hearts to God in order to reveal their full splendor, women created in the image of God, empowered by God, sanctified by God, redeemed and renewed by God, filled with the glory of His Holy Spirit, with all the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, etc.) and gifts that His presence provides.
The church wasn’t already splendid when it “married” Christ—not by a long shot! But Christ was determined that His love would make her so. The bride came to him with both spot and wrinkle, and Jesus’ confidence in His ability to love and cherish was such that “I can cherish those spots, those wrinkles, these stains away.”
Husband, you married a woman with many spots and wrinkles (James 3:2: “We all stumble in many ways”). Can you confidently love her with Christ’s love to cherish those spots, wrinkles, and stains away? Will you even try?
Has expressing disappointment worked? Has putting your energies elsewhere, outside your marriage worked? Has an addiction worked, or has it just made you more miserable? Why not try God’s strategy of bringing transformation to our wives by cherishing them as Christ cherishes the church?
So often we treat a spouse’s imperfections as an excuse to pull away. Jesus, in His love for His church, shows us how that’s exactly the wrong approach.
Notice this charge, men—the failure to cherish our wives has severe implications for our Christian witness. The notion of bossy, bullying, chauvinistic “Christian” husbands is becoming increasingly less accepted and even rightly despised, but in case there is any doubt, let this be another shovelful of dirt to throw on that dead and buried false misunderstanding of “biblical marriage.”
Instead of asking our wives to submit in a harsh manner, Paul urges men to overwhelm our wives with our love—in other words, to melt their hearts with our cherishing. To make them say, “His love is so rich, so powerful, so wonderful, I gladly melt before him.”
Here is what God’s bride becomes, and what our wives can become: “In person she is the full demonstration of the life, care, devotion, power of the Bridegroom. She is the living proof of his faithfulness, patience, energy. Through her his majesty is publicized.”
Christian men should, must, will cherish their wives. Verse 29 lays out the premise of marriage: cherishing our wives as Christ cherishes the church. Cherish isn’t an option. Cherish isn’t only for those wives who “deserve” it. Cherish is what every Christian husband owes every Christian wife.
Will Christian husbands do this because their wives are more cherish-able? Not necessarily. They will do this because Christ cherished the church and men are called to do the same. It’s not about our wives, men, as much as it is about our Savior. This entire passage begins with verse 21, “Out of reverence for Christ,” which some translate (with good reason) “out of fear of Christ.” Using the word “reverence” to translate the Greek word phobos dulls the passion and even terror of its full meaning. This is unfortunate, in the sense that everything Paul says following verse 21 is placed under the disposition of the “leader” living in appropriate fear of the God who is examining how that leader is treating those entrusted to his care. Men are simply the first ones to be held accountable. How men read any sense of privilege out of these verses is one of the most comical, and in another sense, perhaps one of the saddest chapters in the history of Bible teaching.
It comes down to this: our magisterial standing before God is best displayed by the released beauty, energy and glory of wives who have been so well loved and cherished by us.
Oh, for the day a conversation might go like this: “How do you know he’s a Christian?”
“Just look at his wife! If you knew what she was, and now look at what she is, there could be no doubt. She was married to a Christian.”
Just as a father presents his daughter to be married to a young man, so we as husbands spiritually “dress up” our wives to present them to God, more beautiful spiritually than when we found them. We don’t necessarily use pearls or makeup or put flowers in her hair, but we cherish, encourage, support, and pray her to a new level of beauty and spiritual excellence, and then hand her right back to God.
The love of Christ for the church, and consequently the love of a Christian husband for his wife, is to be dynamic, not static—Jesus didn’t declare his love once and for all and then leave it alone. He demonstrates His love on an ongoing basis. Jesus’ love is imaginative, not lecturing. Instead of telling the church what it must do, Jesus found a creative way to bring the church back to him. He put the onus and the sacrifice for reconciliation on himself. Jesus gives to the church, He doesn’t devour it. He builds up the church, he doesn’t crush it. He protects the church instead of verbally pummeling it. Jesus isn’t condescending (“Tsk, tsk, let me show you the right way to do it,”) but rather empowering (“You will do greater things than I did once the Holy Spirit fills you”). Perhaps first and foremost, Jesus’ love is marked by vision for his beloved: I will love you to a future splendor so glorious that you cannot even conceive of it yourself. You can be and will be more wonderful than you ever imagined because my love for you is that strong and that empowering.
Imagine people—just imagine—if Christian marriage was truly like this and did this and accomplished this! Couples building each other up, couples elevating each other, couples whose love is supernaturally strong and cherishing to the point that if you met them after ten years you would say, with astonishment, “What happened to them? They are so full of life, so much more stable, secure, strong and impressive?’
What happened, indeed?
They were cherished. They were supported. They were built up. And in that climate of love, from that platform of cherish, they achieved just a small sliver of the splendor for which God created them.
A Fair Question
Wives reading this might well ask, “What does this say to us?”
It is true, and needs to be upheld, that Paul is addressing men in telling them to cherish their wives. But we needn’t unnecessarily limit the scope, intent, and pursuit of cherish to men—not at all. Jesus’s famous, magisterial “new commandment” is to love one another as he has loved us (John 13:34). By wanting to love your husbands this way, allowing cherish to help define what you mean by love, you are simply stating your desire to love your husband after a model of Christ’s love. How can copying Christ, emulating Christ, or following Christ, be wrong?
Men are given responsibility here, it is true. But it is not overturning God’s order to want to cherish your husband. Can you imagine God looking with disdain on a wife who wants to cherish her husband like Christ loves the church? True love is never a threat to God or His kingdom; it is always an expression of His kingdom.
It’s interesting that Ephesians 5:33 does come around to specifically address the wives: “And the wife must respect her husband.” (NIV) Part of our definition of cherish, if you recall, is to “hold each other in honor,” so this is, conceptually, a command to wives to cherish their husbands, too. Respect by no means completes what it means to cherish, but it’s an essential part of cherish.
Only a man who reads the Ephesians passage incorrectly as being about male privilege would be threatened by a wife who wants to excel at cherishing and loving him in the same way that Christ loves the church. So yes, women, I believe you can go back over the previous section and say, “Can I love/cherish my husband like that?” You’re not seeking to be his head; you’re seeking to be a marvelous lover. What sensible man would take offense or be threatened by that?
As believers, you have a huge advantage. What you must learn to cherish is the glory of the “hiddenness” of Christ within your spouse. Your husband may, at times, not appear very Christlike, but your trust isn’t in your spouse’s obedience but in Christ’s Holy Spirit who is at work in your husband—convicting him, empowering him, redeeming him. The day will come when what holds your husband back—his pride, his selfishness, his lusts, his insecurities—will be lessened, and the virtues of Christ—courage, gentleness, patience, joy, peace, self-control—will break through and perhaps even flourish. It is easier to cherish your husband when you cherish Christ in your husband. You may, at times, have to dig deep to find any glimmer, but you know by Christ’s promise that the Spirit is there and you are merely seeking to be a friend and sister helping that holy, spiritual process to win out.
Being married as a person who hopes in Christ will release your husband to be more like Christ. A professor from Stanford University conducted a now famous study (1971) of students in which he created an imaginary “prison” in a basement, assigning some students the role of prison guards and some the role of prisoners. In an astonishingly short amount of time, those playing the role of prison guards started acting like guards, psychologically; those playing the role of prisoners exhibited the psychological symptoms of stress and depression (the study was accordingly cut short). The conclusion was clear: how we are treated often impacts how we act in a rather short period of time. Cherishing your spouse makes your spouse act like someone who is cherished. Belittling your spouse, ridiculing your spouse, tearing down your spouse will give you a spouse with less sense of self, more resentment, less confidence, and perhaps even a low level (or not so low level) depression. They may literally become more of what you resent them for. On the positive side, acting like you cherish your spouse will make you cherish your spouse even more. Our actions reinforce our beliefs.
The takeaway for both husbands and wives is this: letting our hope in Christ (His promises and His work) be the backbone of our choice to cherish. I love the way Tim Keller suggests God may speak to a couple who encourage each other in the depths of such a spiritual friendship: “Well done, good and faithful servants. Over the years you have lifted one another up to me. You sacrificed for one another. You held one another up with prayer and with thanksgiving. You confronted each other. You rebuked each other. You hugged and you loved each other and continually pushed each other toward me. And now look at you. You’re radiant.”
Biblical cherishing always has a bit of a “future hope” embedded within it.
From Fiasco to Fine
I’m not implying that changing the way you’ve been treating your spouse over the last ten years will be overcome by changing the way you treat them over the next ten days. Christ’s love stretched out over millennia—beginning with Adam and Eve, the calling of Abraham, delivering Israel from Egypt, preserving a remnant, Jesus coming in the flesh, dying and rising at just the right time—we clearly serve a God who patiently takes the long-term view.
Made in God’s image, you will not allow a spouse’s initial reluctance or even repeated refusals to cause you to give up. Dennis and Barbara Rainey write, “True love doesn’t quit just because its object doesn’t respond quickly enough.”
We need a “Tuscany” view of marriage.
In the Tuscany region of Italy, Chianti wine historically was awful. It didn’t help that the bottles used for the wine had inherited the name “fiasco,” which originally meant to make a bottle or make a wine glass. But those early bottles had a tendency to tip over, thus the word fiasco began to be more widely used for anything that was considered a failure.
Today, Tuscany is proud to boast Chianti wine. Now served in more traditional bottles, Chianti wine is considered a premium blend that commands high prices. A rot gut wine that literally led to the creation of the derisive word “fiasco” is now one of the most credited wines in the world. How did this happen? The vintners didn’t abandon their fields; they changed the composition of the wine, they figured out how to grow the best grapes, how to use the unique Tuscany climate to their vantage point, and even did the superficial things—like designing new bottles—to make it not just better, but among the very best.
Look at your marriage as your own little corner of Tuscany. You have to plant it, cultivate it, and figure out what produces the best fruit in your spouse’s soul and marriage. If something doesn’t work, you try something else. Your first few attempts may be spectacular failures, but if you’re in it for the long-haul, you can go from fiasco to premium.
Learning to cherish is the best road map you can find.
Just because we want to be cherished doesn’t make it biblical. The concept of cherish, however, is evident in Ephesians 5 (as well as many other passages we’ll look at in subsequent chapters)
Men are specifically called to cherish our wives as Christ cherishes the church, which means our marriages are to be pictures to the world of a cosmic reality
Cherishing is a strategy as much as it is a command; it’s the method Jesus uses with the church to bring her to her full glory, and it’s the way we’re to help build up our spouse.
Since Jesus calls us to love one another as he loves us, these words are as applicable to wives as they are to husbands.
Cherish is sustained by hope in Christ, not hope in our spouse’s transformation
Cherish is a long-term strategy, not a quick fix.
1. Discuss the glory and strength of Christ, the persevering love of Christ, and the shame and sin of the church, its rebellion, its apathy, its selfishness. Given what we’ve just read about loving our spouse as Christ loves the church, how does this impact our expectations and relational strategies in marriage?
2. What would the following look like in real life: “When someone sees how I treat my wife, they should be reminded of how Christ treats the church.”
3. Jesus’ strategy was to “present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” How could a more selfish strategy negatively impact the process of cherishing? How might our sinful inclinations corrupt the use of this strategy and become manipulative? What will guard against that?
4. Have you ever noticed a married couple that exhibits some of the findings of the Stanford study that found when people were treated like prisoners, they started acting like prisoners? If so, what did that look like? What might the positive alternative look like.
5. The wine-makers’ experience in Tuscany shows that excellence is often built on many failures and false-starts. How can the hope of Christ keep our heads up when we care so much but then become so disappointed? What do we have to know, believe, and do to avoid abandoning our “fields” and instead focus on how to produce a premium blend?
i Markus Barth, Ephesians 4-6 (Anchor Bible), pg. 632.
ii Markus Barth, Ephesians 4-6 Anchor Bible (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1974), pg. 676.
iii Lincoln, A. T. (1990). Ephesians (Vol. 42, p. 375). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
iv Barth, pg. 683.
v Tim and Kathy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage (New York: Riverhead Books, 2011), pg. 134.
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