Membership in the church of Christ is like unto three men who were young, naive, and smitten with love. They each believed that their bride was perfect in every way. As they committed their lives to their brides, they thought to themselves (and said to others), “I make this commitment — enter this covenant — because my bride is flawless. It is for this reason that I love her, and commit to her.”
Others looked on who were older and more mature, who had been married for quite some time. These shook their heads knowingly, and with apprehension for what these men would face in the coming years ahead. Some tried to counsel the young men, assuring them that their brides were wonderful, and that nobody — not even they — were perfect. The young men repelled such talk.
But as always, the closer one gets in a marriage, the more warts one sees. These young men soon began to notice the flaws in their brides — the toilet seat covers, the laundry on the floor, the bad cooking, the cattiness towards neighbors, the snoring, etc. To these flaws, each man responded differently.
The first young man had a “trust crisis,” and decided that since his commitment was based on the premise of marrying a perfect bride (something she was not) he had to leave. He impetuously divorced her, and forever more renounced whatever feelings he had for her. Never a good word about his bride was shared by him again. He was betrayed, and that is all he could think about.
The second young man decided that sophisticated marriage life requires a healthy acknowledgement of the flaws in one’s spouse, rather than looking at him or her through rosy-hued lenses. He was embarrassed of his prior naivety, but even more embarrassed for the other young grooms whom he observed as possessing a similar naivety. So he decided that he must make it known that he has outgrown that immature “puppy love.” People must know that he knows that his bride is imperfect and at times deeply flawed.
So in every conversation at a restaurant or a marketplace, he would mention the toilet seats, the dirty laundry, the cattiness, the snoring, and the occasional emotional breakdowns of his wife. Every time he confessed his love for her in public, he would always follow it up with an acknowledgement of her mistakes and imperfections. Every utterance of his wife became a matter of public analysis between him and his friends, as they poured over each word to discover more imperfections. He was determined to not be naive in his love, and that everybody know it — that everybody knows that he could be married to her and still think she is imperfect. There were even times where he wondered if he would be happier if he were not married at all, or maybe married to another woman.
Sometimes his wife would get upset with his public remarks, and make him sleep on the couch. “She wants me to act like she’s perfect,” he would say, and wonder why their relationship sometimes seemed strained. Surely, she would not estrange him for simply being honest and forthright with others. And she didn’t — she was patient and forgiving, but at times deeply frustrated and hurt by him.
And thus the second man lived out his days with his wife, always married, but never fully happy or complete; consequently, neither was his bride. Onlookers questioned if they really loved each other, and were always wondering if and when they would divorce. The man prided himself in the fact that the divorce never came, using as evidence that he — unlike the first man — had indeed fulfilled his marital obligations and commitments. He had not only fulfilled his marital obligations, but he had done so in a much more sophisticated way than the third man.
And that is because — by all outward appearances — the third man had never grown out of his initial, naive love for his wife. Others could see her flaws, and marveled that he did not seem to notice them. But nothing could be further from the truth. One simply cannot remain married for life without encountering a varied display of the manifold weaknesses and flaws of one’s spouse.
But the third man never gossiped about her in public, or in the marketplaces. Not even in private meetings with close associates did he demean her. He treated her as his most cherished possession. He gently corrected her when appropriate, but always in private — he never embarrassed her or called her out when friends (or enemies) were around. He grew in his love for her, despite her flaws, and grew in his commitment towards her. She in turn also returned that love, and that devotion, adding to the mans own completeness and happiness. And while domestic life was sometimes frustrating (with occasional disputes), onlookers never once doubted that he was happy in his relationship and deeply in love with his wife.
One day, each of these men were called before God to answer to Him for their marital commitments. When asked, “Did you love her with all your heart, might, mind, and strength? Did you give fully of yourself to the building up and cherishing of your relationship?”
The first man responded, “I cannot love a lie. I cannot honor a commitment to such imperfection. I could not spend a lifetime, let alone an eternity in the presence of a being incapable of love, for she who lies, is incapable of love.”
The second man responded, “I am aware of all that my bride offers, including her faults, and yet I have kept my commitments to be with her in spite of what would make me happy. I am a good husband because I am above her faults, and can therefore help to correct them with all my mind and strength. I have been faithful, for I have never betrayed her for another woman.”
The third man responded, “I have given my all, my heart, my mind, and my strength, to love her, to build her up, and to elevate our commitment to each other to its highest level. In return, she has done the same with me and we have both been edified and rejoice together.”
To the first two men God replied, “You have wholly broken the commitment to love, cherish, and support your wives and as such are found guilty before me. Neither of you were faithful. For inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me.”
To the third man, God rejoiced saying, “For your fidelity, for having faithfully kept your commitment to love, cherish, and support your wife, she shall be your companion for all eternity. It is well.”