Pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Church in Southern California shared Sunday how Christians can change their marriage by heeding to a four-word sentence found in the Bible.
"God invented marriage; it was His idea," and we need to get back to the "original template," Laurie said as he began his message titled, "4 words that can change your marriage."
Don't learn about marriage from the culture, for people are either not getting married or reinterpreting what marriage is, he said.
"Marriage is a result of two people involving themselves in doing what the Bible says, most importantly leaning on God to be the spouse God has called us to be. Marriage is not finding the right person as much as it is being the right person."
Before sharing what the four words are, Laurie first shared some foundational truths about marriage.
The Bible says marriage is leaving – all other relationships – and cleaving, to hold on to one another, he said.
Couples often use "irreconcilable differences" as an excuse for getting divorce, he added. "I've had irreconcilable differences with my wife for 39 years… She's often late, I'm usually early; she's laid back and more relaxed, and I'm in a rush all the time… she's cute, I'm fat."
The pastor read out Ephesians 5:17-21: "Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God."
A spiritual person will be a submitting person, Laurie stressed. Both the husband and the wife are to submit to one another, he clarified. Submission, he explained, means thinking of others over yourself, or putting the needs of your spouse above your own.
The reason why many marriage break can be summed up in one word, "submission-less," he said.
Laurie then shared the four words that can change a person's marriage. "Husbands, love your wives," quoting from Ephesians 5:25.
He then read verses 25 through to 33: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband."
Husbands hold the key to flourishing marriages, Laurie said, if they do their part of loving their wives as Christ loved the church. How did Jesus love the church? He died for us while we were yet sinners. "You have to die to your selfish ambition."
Laurie also quoted from Dr. Ed Wheat's book, In Love Life for Every Married Couple.
"Even in the best of marriages, unlovable traits show up in both partners and in every marriage, sooner or later, a need arises that can be met only by unconditional love! Agape is the kind of love we need in these situations," Wheat wrote. "This love has the capacity to persist in the face of rejection and continue where there is no human response at all. It can leap over walls that would stop any human love cold. It is never defeated by unlovable behavior and gives gladly to the undeserving without totaling the cost. To the relationship of husband and wife, which would otherwise lie at the mercy of fluctuating emotions and human upheavals, agape imparts stability and a permanence that is rooted in the eternal. Agape is the divine solution for marriages populated by imperfect human beings!"
The pastor then read out a portion of 1 Corinthians 13, saying it defines what love does. "Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things," read verses 4-7.
Love is love only when it acts, Laurie said.
"If you really love your wife, be patient with her. If you really love your wife, show kindness and tenderness to her. If you really love your wife, don't boast, just do it. If you really love your wife, you will not be harsh with her. If you really love your wife, you will always believe the best, not the worst about her. And finally, if you really love your wife, you will make it through the rough patches," he said. "Start doing all this without waiting for feelings – feelings may follow the actions."
Before closing, Laurie shared two additional words that can change marriage "as bonus." "I'm sorry" are those two words, he said. Spouses must learn to apologize when they need to. "Marriage is made up of two good forgivers."