It seemed like a ridiculous request. Even when it was made in the gentlest tone, with the kindest words he could possibly find.
“Next time, would you mind not slamming the car door so hard?” requested my easy-going husband, early in our relationship. In his opinion, the force I routinely exerted when closing my car door was excessive and could lead to damage of the vehicle.
I thought to myself, “This is the way I’ve been closing car doors all my life. What difference does it make?” Well, it made a difference to him, and I love him so I tried to honor his request.
Ah, marriage. We will be celebrating our 11th wedding anniversary this weekend, just 3 days after Chik-Fil-A set new sales records. As you surely know, Chik-Fil-A Appreciation Day was created by former governor Mike Huckabee as an endorsement of Chik-Fil-A and its President and COO, Dan Cathy. In one interview, Cathy had stated that he believes “in the biblical definition of marriage.” Many patronized Chik-Fil-A to show their support; others took Cathy’s comments as an offense to non-heterosexual people and boycotted.
But I ask, what exactly is the biblical definition of marriage? Since Scripture is not set up like Webster’s Dictionary, you will not find one particular Bible passage that gives a concrete definition of marriage. I am no theologian but I gave this question some thought and recalled the following biblical passages:
We have Genesis 2, which details the creation of Adam and his “helper” (v. 18, NIV), Eve. Some would argue that the relationship between Adam and Eve must be the example that all marriages follow; some would argue not.
Jesus spoke about divorce and adultery in Matthew 19 and Mark 10.
In I Corinthians 7 Paul enumerates the benefits of staying single, but also instructs people who are already married on how they ought to treat each other. Paul also addresses the marriage relationship in Colossians 3 and Ephesians 5. Again, some believe these passages imply that marriage can only be between a man and a woman; others do not.
Regardless of how you define marriage, and regardless of your marital status or sexual orientation, I would argue that – if we truly put it into practice – the advice Paul gives in Ephesians 5 could benefit us as a society and would serve to further the kingdom of God.
But before I explain what I mean, let me ask you this: Do you care about furthering the kingdom of God? Or, do you care about standing up for your rights? You may argue that a person can care about both. Certainly, I agree, there are times when we must defend ourselves. But be assured, there are times when we have to choose one or the other: Defending our rights or furthering God’s kingdom. And if we call ourselves Christians, we ought to be glad that Jesus understood this concept when he walked upon the earth. If he cared more for his rights than for the kingdom of God, Jesus would have kept his mouth shut when the Pharisees took him to task for violating Mosaic Law. He would have silently watched as the money-changers cheated worshippers in the Temple courts. He would have applauded Peter for cutting off the ear of the soldier who came to arrest him. He would have called “foul” on the kangaroo court that sentenced him to death. He would have shouted threats at his executioners as he hung on the cross. But he stayed focused on his mission as God’s earthly representation. He “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant… he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:7-8). His rights played no part in His earthly mission.
So before you read any further, ask yourself if you truly care more about furthering God’s kingdom than about defending your rights. Because you, Christian, Christ-follower, are now God’s representation on earth.
Back to Paul’s advice found in Ephesians 5. Verse 33 says, “A husband…must love his wife. He must love her just as he loves himself. And a wife must respect her husband.” I am not a doormat wife and my husband is not an oppressive sexist. But in this time of TV dads who are depicted as bumbling idiots and movie husbands are either clueless or cheaters (or both), I make it a priority to show my husband that he is appreciated and valued in our family. I show him respect because I love him. And while I may shake my head about that one time when he asked me not to slam the car door, the truth is that I make many requests of him in order to satisfy my neurotic tendencies. And he may think my requests are ridiculous or silly, but he usually complies because he loves me and wants me to feel treasured.
When he made that request about the car door I could have said, “Hey buddy, we’re married now. Half of what you own is mine. It’s my right to slam the door if I want to.” But what would it have achieved? It would have been me, defending my rights. It would not have been a reflection of the One I claim to represent.
It may seem silly when a group of people ask you to boycott a restaurant by which they feel hated, loathed, or oppressed. You may argue that you don’t hate, loathe, or oppress anyone. But are you more concerned about defending free speech than you are about the pain of hurting people? How about the people who don’t have a dog in this race, but are watching from the sidelines? We must love others just as we love ourselves. And when our actions are driving a wedge between God and anyone who needs Him, we must reconsider just how important our rights are.
You, Christian, are God’s representation on earth. And Jesus said, “Everyone will know that you are my disciples because…” Because you stand up for your rights? No. “Everyone will know that you are my disciples because of your love for each other.” (John 13:35) And if that means shutting the car door with a little less force next time, so be it.