In chapters five and six of St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he begins by saying, “Let your conduct be guided by love as Christ has loved us.” (Eph. 5:2) Then he goes on to address the cultural relationships that most people may find themselves: husbands and wives, parents and children, slaves and masters.
In all these relationships Paul is saying, “Be the most loving person possible wherever you find yourselves.” He urges his readers to be loving in all the above cultural situations.
In the section on marriage, unfortunately some people have used this passage to argue for male superiority in matrimonial relationships. This is a gross misunderstanding of that passage.
Paul starts this section with the words, “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Eph. 5:21) He recognizes that marriage must be a compromise of two mature people.
A Christian marriage is based on the dignity and equality of husband and wife. Both male and female are made after the image and likeness of God. Both bring something unique to their marriage. In a Christian marriage, no slave/master or slave/mistress relationship exists. All are equal in the sight of God.
The Christian definition of love is wanting what is best for another or seeking the good or the well being of the other person. That love can only grow in an atmosphere of freedom and trust, never from restraint and obligation. Love is like any other living entity; it must be cultivated and allowed to grow or it dies.
St. Paul gives us the secret to a lasting marriage when he says, “Beloved, be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:32) Kindness, tenderness, and forgiveness are qualities that every mature relationship needs.
Kindness comes in many different shapes and forms. One very important way of being kind deals with our speech. The words married couples exchange with each other have an enormous effect on their marriages.
Researchers have found that harsh criticism, sarcasm, and put-downs act as cancerous cells that, if unchecked, erode relationships over time. Continuous negativity takes control and destroys a relationship. However, kind words, praise, encouragements are the building blocks of a happy and lasting relationship.
One way to fight against such negativity in relationships is an attitude of gratitude. If thankfulness fills our hearts, then negativity will not find a home. As Christians we need to cultivate this gratefulness in all things. We believe that all we have is a gift. God is the giver of all good gifts, and we have been blessed with so much.
As we start to pay attention to those gifts, we will begin to see the world differently. If we are in a committed marriage relationship, we will especially begin to see our husband or wife as one of the greatest gifts God has given us. What a gift we receive when someone tells us that they are deeply grateful for the gift we have been to them. We have the power to give that gift to others.
The other important element in a relationship is forgiveness. Christ has forgiven us, and will continue to forgive us. This is the great gift God has that given us and will always be available. Can we not offer this gift to one another? We all need forgiveness from one another.
In marriage, where two people live in such a close union, inflicting hurt and pain on one another is so easy. When couples are constantly able to offer and receive the gift of forgiveness, they have discovered the most important secret of happiness.
May we always choose to be like Christ who was kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving in all his relationships.