December 21, 2012

Isn’t Jesus’ Love Enough?

Category: Bible - OT - Genesis,Marriage :: Permalink

This morning, I read most of Justin Buzzard’s little book, Date Your Wife: A Husband’s Guide.  The title is somewhat misleading — very little of the book is really about having a “date” with your wife — and I have some quibbles about certain aspects of the content (religion vs. Christianity), but there’s some good, practical, and gospel-grounded stuff here.  I could say more, but this isn’t a book review and I have something else on my mind.

The foreword to the book is by Tullian Tchividjian and it contains a line that made me raise my eyebrows.  Here it is in context:

I enjoy receiving love from my wife.  I’m ecstatic when Kim loves me and expresses affection toward me.  Something in me comes alive when she does that.  But I’ve learned this freeing truth: I don’t need that love, because in Jesus I receive all the love I need.  This in turn liberates me to love her without apprehension or condition.  I get to revel in her enjoyment of my love without needing anything from her in return.  I get love from Jesus so that I can give love to her (10-11).

The line in question is in the middle of that paragraph: “I don’t need that love” — the love of a wife — “because in Jesus I receive all the love I need.”  At first, that sounds right.  Jesus is all we need, isn’t he?  If we have him, we have everything.  Doesn’t Paul say “For me to live is Christ”?

And yet here’s what raises a question in my mind.  In the beginning, on the sixth day, God creates Adam from the dust of the ground and breathes the Spirit into his nostrils and Adam becomes a living soul.  God then plants a garden in Eden and puts Adam into it.  This is not Adam’s garden; it is God’s garden, God’s sanctuary, and Adam is there as a priest to tend and guard it (language associated with priests later in Scripture).  God speaks to Adam and gives him permission to eat from every tree in God’s garden, with the exception of one.

But then God says something that ought to surprise us more than it does: “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”  How was Adam alone?  Didn’t he have fellowship with God?  Of course he did!  Isn’t that fellowship enough?  Apparently not.  Shouldn’t Adam have said “I don’t need a wife (or her love or anything from her) because I have God (and His love) and that’s enough to meet all my needs”?  No. Adam had fellowship with God, but he also needed a wife.  And he needed a wife, not an angel, not an animal, but also not a male buddy or a female friend; he needed a wife, someone who was bound together with him, one flesh with him.

Of course, Jesus’ love for us is the foundation of all our blessings.  Certainly Jesus’ love empowers a man to love his wife, even when she isn’t lovely or isn’t loving him in return.  But a man who has Jesus and in him has fellowship with God still needs other people.  It is not good for him to be alone.  And it’s right for him to say to his wife, “I need you.”

Posted by John Barach @ 2:33 pm | Discuss (5)

5 Responses to “Isn’t Jesus’ Love Enough?”

  1. Jake Belder Says:

    Helpful stuff, John, and I’d agree with your critique of Tchividjian’s point. But, how would you communicate this to someone who is single?

  2. John Barach Says:

    Thanks, Jake.

    This is always a tough one. It seems clear to me that Genesis 2 indicates that marriage is the norm and therefore singleness is exceptional, and it’s certainly a painful exception for many people. (Perhaps similar: Health is the norm, but God calls many people to serve him in sickness and suffering of one kind or another.)

    At the same time, Scripture also promises that God puts the solitary in families (Ps 68:6) and that those who leave father, mother, and so on for Jesus’ sake receive a hundred times as many in this age, which surely must be fulfilled in the church. Even those who are single, who have the pain of desiring but not having a spouse, are given some form of companionship, some form of family, in the church.

    I understand, too, what Tchividjian is saying: A man who feels shame in his relationship with his wife can take comfort in knowing that in Christ he is justified in God’s sight. A man whose wife has turned away from him can take comfort from Christ’s unfailing love and in that strength continue to love his wife. And a single person who longs for a spouse and doesn’t have one can take comfort in God’s love in Christ.

    I think the biggest problem with what Tchividjian is saying has to do with the word “need.” Does a man need his wife? Well, it depends. Need her for what? Need her for a right standing with God? Certainly not. Need her love in return for his love? Certainly. Need her love in order to be happy in his marriage? Certainly.

  3. Jake Belder Says:

    Thanks for your reply, John, that’s helpful.

  4. Steven May Says:

    I’m confused. From the original Post, I dont not see how your claim in the comments section rightly explains Tchividjans view. Would you explain how you got there from his introduction?

  5. John Barach Says:

    Steven —

    Thanks for the comment and the opportunity to clarify. At least, I hope I can clarify. I’m not entirely sure what you’re asking about.

    In the quotation in the main blog entry, Tchividjian says that he doesn’t need his wife’s love “because in Jesus I receive all the love I need” and receiving Jesus’ love then “liberates me to love her without apprehension or condition.”

    I take him to be saying that even if his wife doesn’t love him (or at least, doesn’t express it the way he wants/needs), he still is loved by Christ — and knowing that he’s loved by Christ, he is able to love his wife in spite of her behavior.

    My main point, however, is that it still seems biblically inadequate to say that you don’t need your wife’s love, as if Jesus’ love is enough. That’s what I was addressing.

    I hope that clears things up.

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